Canadian Mountie Among 16 People Murdered By Gunman Disguised As Police Officer
Portapique, Nova Scotia, CANADA – A gunman disguised as a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer murdered at least 16 people during a 12-hour rampage that stretched over 22 miles, according to police.
Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist, used a “mock-up” of a Mountie patrol vehicle as he moved from home to home throughout the rural communities he attacked, NBC News reported.
Among the victims was RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who was killed while responding to the active shooter incident, Nova Scotia RCMP Commanding Officer Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman said in a press release on Sunday evening.
A second RCMP officer is hospitalized with non-life threatening injures, Commissioner Bergerman added.
The gunman’s rampage began at a residence in Portapique at approximately 10 p.m. on Saturday night, BBC reported.
The RCMP responded to the home after receiving multiple reports about gunfire, and found “several casualties” outside and inside the home, police said.
The suspect, who was wearing a RCMP uniform, fled the scene prior to officers’ arrival.
The RCMP sent out a tweet at 11:30 p.m. on April 18, notifying residents that they were investigating a gun call in the area and to lock themselves inside, BBC reported.
The community was already on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
As additional officers raced to the area, fires began breaking out at multiple homes in the community, BBC reported.
According to local residents, Wortman first set his own home and outbuildings ablaze, then began shooting people when they ran outside.
Fires were also ignited at multiple homes in another community approximately 25 miles away, police said.
As the manhunt continued into Sunday, the RCMP sent out a tweet describing the gunman’s lookalike patrol vehicle, BBC reported.
“There's one difference between his car and our Royal Canadian Mounted Police vehicles: the car # [registration plate]. The suspect's car is 28B11, behind rear passenger window. If you see 28B11, call 911 immediately," the alert read.
At one point, Wortman ditched the mock-up patrol car and took off in a small, silver Chevrolet SUV, according to investigators.
Police said that the initial shootings appeared to be targeted attacks, but that the murders became random as the gunman continued his rampage through Nova Scotia, The New York Times reported.
The active shooter was ultimately located after about 12 hours at a gas station in Enfield, which is located 22 miles away from where the rampage began.
Wortman was pronounced dead after an exchange of gunfire with responding officers, but the RCMP did not specify how the gunman died, NBC News reported.
At least 16 people were killed during what has been described as the worst mass shooting in Canada’s modern history, according to BBC News.
“Today is a devastating day for Nova Scotia and it will remain etched in the minds of many, for years to come,” Commissioner Bergerman said in the press release. “What has unfolded overnight and into this morning is incomprehensible and many families are experiencing the loss of a loved one.”
The commissioner confirmed that Constable Stevenson, a 23-year veteran-of-the-force, was killed in the attack.
“Heidi answered the call of duty and lost her life while protecting those she served,” he said.
She leaves behind her husband, two children, and her parents.
“Earlier this afternoon, I met with Heidi’s family and there are no words to describe their pain,” he said. “Two children have lost their mother and a husband his wife. Parents lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.”
“Heidi’s family is a part of our RCMP family and we will embrace and support them in the days, weeks and months ahead,” Commissioner Bergerman said.
The commissioner offered his condolences to the “countless” families who are lost loved ones during the shooter’s rampage.
“This tragic incident has also resulted in many victims outside of the RCMP. Countless families are in mourning today. Each person who lost their life had family and friends and they too will need support,” he said.
“The impact of this incident will extend from one end of this province to the other,” Commissioner Bergerman wrote. “As Nova Scotians, we have to do what we are known for. And come together in times of need and support one another.”
Lisa McCully, an elementary school teacher, was also killed in the attacks, as well as Greg and Jamie Blair, and Heather O’Brien, who was a nurse, BBC reported.
Information regarding the other victims has not yet been released.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “saddened” to learn about the brutal attacks.
“Our hearts go out to the people who have lost loved ones, and to the RCMP family mourning a fallen officer. I also hope for a full recovery for the people who were injured, including one RCMP member who is in hospital being treated for non-life-threatening injuries,” Trudeau said in a statement on Sunday.
“Every day, law enforcement members put themselves in harm’s way to ensure our safety and well-being,” he continued. “I thank them, and all first responders, for their unwavering dedication, professionalism, and service, and for always being there for us.”
The Prime Minister said that the country will come together to mourn with the victims’ family and support them.
“The people of Nova Scotia are strong and resilient, and we will be here to support them as they heal from this tragedy,” Trudeau said.
According to Wortman’s neighbors, he was the owner of a successful denture clinic in Dartmouth, BBC reported.
He also collected RCMP memorabilia.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said that the gunman was not known to have extremist political views and that he did not have a history of violence, BBC reported.
UPDATE: Two more victims have died as a result of the attack, bringing the total number of people killed by the gunman to at least 18, Trudeau said early Monday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.