CONTENT WARNING: Some of the details in this story may be unsuitable for all readers. Discretion is advised.
HALIFAX (NEWS 1130) – Police in Nova Scotia have provided a detailed timeline of the tragic events during last weekend’s massacre, including the horrific first moments victims were discovered.
Mounties outlined three “clusters” of incidents, the first of which began on Saturday night in the beachfront community of Portapique, which is along the Bay of Fundy. The second and third unfolded on Sunday, ending in Enfield, where the shooter was killed.
Portapique (10:26pm, Apr 18)
Wentworth (9:35am, Apr 19)
Debert (10:08am, Apr 19)
Shubenacadie (10:49am, Apr 19)
Enfield (approximately 11:26am, Apr 19) pic.twitter.com/ScbA5IUZjG
— Ash 'I work from home now' Kelly (@AshDKelly) April 24, 2020
Before the first 9-1-1 call was made, RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell said there was an assault between the 51-year-old gunman and a person he knew, later confirmed to be his girlfriend.
She was able to get away and apparently hid in a wooded area overnight. After this, around 10:00 p.m., Campbell said police received its first 9-1-1 call reporting a shooting at a home in the Portapique area.
When officers arrived, a “male” — who had been shot — was found walking away from the area. It was later discovered he was shot while driving his vehicle by someone in a passing vehicle that “looked like a police vehicle.”
“He also indicated to the responding officers that vehicle was driving towards the beach, and that there was one way in and out of the community. It’s important to note that,” Campbell said.
Several police units were called in, he noted, and when they arrived, discovered a horrific scene — several bodies, some in the road.
A number of homes were also on fire, Campbell added.
However, when police arrived, the suspect was gone.
“In total, there were over seven locations where people were found deceased. Many of the deceased were discovered while responding members were checking homes for victims and/or for suspects,” Campbell said, adding as the investigation progressed, more resources — including a helicopter, K9 squad, and crisis communication people — were called in.
Specialized units were also called in from New Brunswick.
The home of the suspect, who was identified as Gabriel Wortman, was also on fire, Cambpell said.
“Two police package Ford vehicles, as well as a third vehicle, was also burning on that potential suspect’s property. We also learned that the gunman was in possession of a pistol and long-barreled weapons,” he said, adding the suspect at the time was also known to own “several vehicles that looked like police vehicles.”
Despite the additional resources, Campbell said it was only until after 6:30 a.m. Sunday that a victim “emerged from hiding after she called 9-1-1.”
“It was at that time, that through that significant key witness, we confirmed more details about Gabriel Wortman.”
The second cluster of victims as detailed by police, found in Wentworth (9:35am, April 19) and Debert (10:08 am, April 19). The victims in Shubenacadie, were found on Highway 2 pic.twitter.com/Bw1mX8feav
— Ash 'I work from home now' Kelly (@AshDKelly) April 24, 2020
Those details included the fact he was driving a “fully-marked and equipped replica RCMP vehicle” and was also wearing a uniform. After confirming these details, a BOLO — Be On the Look Out — bulletin was issued for the gunman, including his description and vehicle.
It was more than 12 hours after officers first responded to the original 9-1-1 call that Campbell said a second series of calls began coming in — more than 60 kilometres from Portapique.
The shooter is said to have gone to a home in the Glenhome area, where three people were killed and a home was again set on fire.
“Our investigation has uncovered that the gunman then travelled to a residence on Highway 4 in the Glenholme area,” Campbell said. “He had knocked on the door and woken the occupants. He was known to the residents, and they identified him to a 9-1-1 call taker, and they also advised that he was driving a police vehicle and carrying a long-barreled weapon. They did not answer the door and the gunman left.”
From there, the gunman shot a woman on the roadside before continuing his rampage. Another two people were then shot while driving their vehicles.
“A witness described that the suspect had pulled over one of the vehicles and then shot one of the drivers.” The shooter then shot another person who was also driving.
“While he was at the gas pumps, one of our tactical resources came into the gas station to refuel their vehicle. When the officer exited the vehicle, there was an encounter and the gunman was shot and killed by police at 11:26 a.m.”https://t.co/6kEk3G0AYB @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/DvZMhole4g
— Ash ‘I work from home now’ Kelly (@AshDKelly) April 24, 2020
As the events were unfolding, Campbell said Constable Heidi Steveson, who was killed in the rampage, was in communication with another officer, and the two had planned to meet.
While at the prearranged meeting place, Campbell said a vehicle — which appeared to be a marked RCMP cruiser — approached Cst. Morrison. Thinking it was Cst. Stevenson, he approached the car, which was being driven by the shooter.
“The gunman pulled up beside Cst. Morrison and immediately opened fire,” Campbell explained. “Cst. Morrison received several gunshot wounds and began to retreat from the area, driving his vehicle away from the scene. He notified other officers and dispatch that he was shot and that he was enroute to EHS station for emergency medical attention.”
At that time, Cst. Stevenson — a 23-year veteran of the force — was nearby. While driving, her vehicle and the vehicle the gunman was driving “collided head on.”
“Cst. Heidi Stevenson engaged the gunman. The gunman took Cst. Stevenson’s life. He also took Cst. Stevenson’s gun and mags,” Campbell said, adding both vehicles were then set on fire.
A person passing by was also shot and killed, and their SUV was taken by the gunman.
Following this event, the shooter is said to have driven to another home, gotten inside, and then shot and killed the woman living there.
He then took off the police uniform he was wearing and left in the woman’s car. From there, Campbell said the shooter drove to a gas station in Enfield.
“While he was at the gas pumps, one of our tactical resources came into the gas station to refuel their vehicle. When the officer exited the vehicle, there was an encounter and the gunman was shot and killed by police at 11:26 a.m.”
“Twenty-two innocent people were killed at the hands of a gunman, and three people were injured,” Campbell said Friday. “To call this a tragedy would be an understatement. Some of those who lost their lives did so while trying to save others. They are true heroes.”
The update came ahead of a virtual vigil to remember the 22 people killed in the rampage.
It’ll include messages of support from local and national faces, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Organizers say the aim is not to dwell on the horrors of the weekend, but to celebrate the lives of those lost.
“It’s been pretty amazing to watch the community kind of rally together around this right from the top, from the premier to RCMP to community members,” Mark Hodgins, a morning show anchor with NEWS 95.7 in Halifax, noted. “It’s been certainly a tough week for everybody, but I think that it’s important to recognize how much everybody’s come together since last weekend’s tragedy.”
Watch the vigil here.
-With files from NEWS 95.7 in Halifax