A gunman in Nova Scotia evaded police for nearly 12 hours after killing at least 16 in one of Canada’s deadliest mass shootings
Ottawa (CNN) — Nova Scotia authorities have begun investigating the shooting of a gunman who may have been disguised as a police officer and went on 12-hour rampage that left 16 people dead in a small town.
A confrontation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began after a manhunt for the fleeing suspect overnight Saturday. Multiple crime scenes and hours of evasion later, the gunman was killed Sunday in a shootout with police. Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) took over the investigation into the death, according to a statement from SiRT.
Gabriel Wortman, 51, was identified as the suspect and was confirmed dead by RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather.
The motive behind the shooting, one of Canada’s deadliest, is still under investigation, Leather said. Some victims, he said, “appeared not to have a relationship with the assailant shooter.”
The chaos began when police were first called to a property around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. “When police arrived at the scene the members located several casualties inside and outside of the home,” Leather said.
One of those killed was Constable Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and 23-year veteran of the RCMP. Another officer is in the hospital receiving treatment for non-life-threatening injuries he suffered in the incident, the RCMP said on Facebook.
RCMP were led to several crime scenes miles apart beginning in Portapique and stretching to Enfield, where the suspect was found, Leather said. Wortman was believed to have been wearing part of what looked to be an RCMP uniform, and may have been driving a vehicle made to look like a police car, Leather said.
“The fact that this individual had a uniform and a police car at his disposal certainly speaks to it not being a random act,” Leather said.
Police told the public on Twitter the gunman may have been wearing a RCMP uniform and driving a silver Chevrolet Tracker that appeared to be a police vehicle, but had a specific number — 28B11. They clarified that he was not employed by the RCMP.
The gunman was considered “armed and dangerous,” so RCMP told people to stay indoors. The suspect was ultimately found at a truck stop in Enfield between 11 a.m. and noon on Sunday, about 12 hours after the initial 911 call came in to police.
Ontario truck driver Tom Nurani told CNN media partner CTV News that he was at the truck stop when he heard a staff member shouting.
“She goes, ‘Oh my God, lock the doors, he’s here! And I peek out of the window and I saw some RCMP vehicles and there was four or five uniforms with guns,” Nurani said.
Witness Glen Hines was driving past and told CTV he heard gunfire.
“All I could hear was gunshots and my wife, I thought I was going to call 911, because she was going into panic, it scared her so bad,” Hines said.
Politicians respond to shooting rampage
Stephen McNeil, the premier of Nova Scotia, called the shooting spree “one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history.”
“I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia,” McNeil said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted “our hearts go out to everyone affected by the shooting,” adding “we’re keeping all of you in our thoughts.”
“To the Portapique community, we’re keeping all of you in our thoughts. And on behalf of all Canadians, I want you to know that we’re here for you – and we’ll be here for you in the days and weeks ahead,” he said.
National Police Federation President Brian Sauvé said the NPF was “working hard to ensure all our Members and their families are supported.”
“We are there for them now and will be there for them for the coming days and months as they work through this tragedy,” Sauvé said. “As Canadians, we are extremely fortunate these incidents are not common.”
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Sunday was “a truly heartbreaking day in Canada.”
“Tragedies like today are horrific and should never happen,” Blair said. “I know the people of Nova Scotia will band together to heal and mourn those who were lost. All Canadians will stand with them.”