Death toll rises to 23 in Nova Scotia shooting rampage as more bodies recovered from fires

HALIFAX—As some details emerged Tuesday of the Nova Scotia shooter’s history, the death toll in his rampage has risen to 23, with RCMP confirming they had found bodies at the sites of fires connected to the weekend’s mass shooting.

That’s an increase from the 19 confirmed victims announced Monday, at which point the Mounties said they expected to recover more bodies. The youngest of the confirmed victims was 17 years old.

Samantha Clark, left, comforts Shaynne MacNeil Tuesday in Debert, N.S., as the two have a moment of silence in front of a memorial for nurse Heather O'Brien, one of the victims of the weekend shooting rampage.

Nick Beaton, the husband of Kristen Beaton, a young mother and continuing care assistant who was one of the victims of the rampage, told CTV News that his wife had been pregnant with another child.

Police also confirmed Tuesday that the RCMP uniform the shooter wore on the weekend while committing his crimes was genuine, while the cruiser he drove was a “look-alike” RCMP vehicle.

RCMP said they were investigating and gathering evidence at 16 specific locations in the communities of Portapique, Wentworth, Debert, Shubenacadie/Milford and Enfield.

Kevin Mullins of Debert, N.S., adjusts his Nova Scotia flag to fly at half-staff Tuesday, April 21, following a weekend shooting rampage that resulted in 23 deaths in the province.

The gunman in Nova Scotia’s massacre had pleaded guilty to assault in 2002, stemming from an incident the victim describes as a bizarre, violent encounter.

Court records show Gabriel Wortman had pleaded guilty, but was conditionally discharged over the Oct. 29, 2001 assault of another male in Dartmouth, N.S.

As a result, Wortman was required at the time “not to own, possess or carry a weapon, ammunition, or explosive substance,” for nine months following the decision and to attend “for assessment and counselling in anger management” as directed by his probation officer.

Reached by the Star, the victim of the 2001 assault said Tuesday that he had been a teenager, waiting for a bus outside Wortman’s Dartmouth clinic on the day in question.

Anita McLeod has a quiet moment in front of a memorial in Debert, N.S., for nurse Kristen Beaton, one of the victims of the shooting rampage.

He said Wortman came out in a rage, smelling of alcohol, and hit him in the back of the head.

“I was 15 and I’m standing outside of his denture clinic on Portland Street. He came outside … He told me to ‘get off the property,’ and he smelled like booze, grabbed my shirt and punched me in the back of the head,” said Matthew, who asked that his last name not be used.

“And that’s just the nice part of it,” he said.

“I shook that off, tried to defend myself, and as he’s hitting me in the face, one of his friends came out of the house and hit me in the back of the head with a crowbar.”

Matthew told the Star that the parking lot next to Wortman’s denture clinic used to be a rooming house.

“They were kicking me with work boots on, and tried to throw me in front of a bus I was waiting for,” he said.

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“Somebody from somewheres came out and said ‘Stop! He’s only a kid,’ and then they ran off.”

Flags of Nova Scotia and Canada fly at half-staff outside the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) headquarters in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, on April 19, 2020, after a shooting rampage left at least 10 dead.

After charges were laid, Matthew alleges Wortman attempted to bribe him with money to make the charges go away.

Matthew said he was “extremely surprised” to recognize the shooter from this weekend’s tragedy.

“I didn’t put two and two together at first … but I was on Facebook and I saw him, and I went, ‘Man, that face looks familiar.’ ”

“And then my brother called me, and said, ‘Do you remember such-and-such guy?’ … And then I read the name, and went ‘Oh my God …’ ”

RCMP Const. Earl Hutchinson accepts banana loaf from nine-year-old Melina Tremblay at the blockade on Portapique Beach Road in Portapique, N.S., on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.

When asked to comment on the events surrounding the assault in 2001, the Halifax Regional Police did not immediately respond to questions posed by the Star.

The massacre ended Sunday when Wortman was shot in a confrontation with police.

As the police investigation continues into the weekend tragedy, authorities have said the death toll may rise.

Ted Fraser
Alex McKeen
Alex McKeen is a Vancouver-based reporter covering transportation and labour for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_mckeen