RCMP say more than 10 people are dead after a police chase in rural Nova Scotia.
In a press conference on Sunday, RCMP said that Const. Heidi Stevenson is among the dead and that a male officer was wounded.
They say the suspect, previously identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, has also died.
Police say they found “several casualties” at the scene of the shooting, both inside and outside the property. Police did not specify the number of casualties, but Nova Scotia RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather said there could be more.
The series of shootings, which spanned “multiple locations” across the northern edge of the province, started late Saturday according to RCMP. Shortly before 11:30 p.m. that night, Nova Scotia RCMP tweeted that a shooting was underway in the community about 40 km west of Truro and about a one-hour drive from the New Brunswick border. Mounties urged locals to stay at home with their doors locked.
Nova Scotia RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather told reporters on Sunday evening that, after receiving multiple 911 calls from residents in Portapique, members of the RCMP located several casualties inside and outside of a home in the small community.
Multiple teams responded, including police officers from Halifax, Leather said.
Leather confirmed that the suspect, at one point during the evening hours, was wearing a “portion” of a police uniform, and was driving a vehicle made to look like an RCMP police cruiser.
Leather said that it’s too early to say what the motivation was, but the attacks were, at least in part, “very random in nature.” He said that the suspect did not have a violent past, as far as he knew.
“Some of these crime scenes we’ve not even begun to process, and as I said, it’s an ongoing investigation,” Leather told reporters.
Due to privacy reasons, Leather could not say if there were relationships between the victims and the shooter.
“Some of these crime scenes we’ve not even begun to process, and as I said, it’s an ongoing investigation,” Leather told reporters. Leather said that there could be more than 10 victims.
Chief Supt. Lee Bergerman said that “what has unfolded… is incomprehensible.”
“Countless families are in mourning today… the impact of this incident will extend from one end of the province to the other. As Nova Scotians, we have to do what we’re known for, and come together in times of need and support each other.”
In a press conference on Sunday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil addressed the shooting before COVID-19 updates, labelling the incident 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. “To the families of the victims, and to those who are still feeling afraid, my heart goes out to you.”
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“We are all in shock that such a thing could happen here in Nova Scotia, and it’s a heavy burden to bear on top of COVID-19,” McNeil said. “But we must stay strong.”
Peter Hodge, a 65-year-old retiree lives across the street from the top of Portapique Beach Road, where Wortman was reported to have a house. He was woken at 1 a.m. Sunday morning by sirens and flashing lights.
“It was major, major league SWAT stuff going on,” he said. RCMP officers asked to look at Hodge’s security camera footage he said, but found nothing useful on it. Since then, he’s been getting most of his updates on the situation outside his door from social media.
Officers have been blockading the top of Portapique Beach Road Road since the early morning hours.
Christine Mills, a longtime Portapique resident, told the Star that there were helicopters, SWAT trucks, and squad cars swarming the community right at sunrise, with two Mounties stationed right outside her house, leaving only after Wortman, had been apprehended by police.
Mills told the Star that she knows where Wortman’s house is, but has never met him.
“It’s a log home right on the ocean side, not on the beach… but looking at the river. It was a big log home,” Mills said.
Donna Dominix, a retiree living in Portapique with her husband, said that on Saturday night, after reports of fires and gunshots in the area, the couple locked their doors, closed their blinds, and waited out the manhunt.
“I was up for a little while last night, and there’s lots of wooded area around here, so you didn’t know if this guy was on foot or in a car or what, so I was a bit anxious,” Dominix told the Star.
She said that Portapique, a small, tight-knit community of around 250, has never had an incident like this before, and that it’s an otherwise peaceful “drive-thru” of a town.
“It was devastating … we don’t know what happened and why it happened,” Dominix said.
Mounties reported that he was last seen travelling south from the Milford area — roughly 57 km north of Halifax — in a small silver Chevy Tracker. He was earlier said to be in Brookfield, Debert, and before that in Glenholme.
RCMP said he was southbound on Highway 102, which leads from Truro to Halifax. The Mounties had set up a blockade in the southbound lanes of the highway north of the Halifax airport.
The Denturist Society of Nova Scotia had a Gabriel Wortman listed as having a practice in Dartmouth, N.S. on Sunday morning. However, in the early afternoon, that information was taken down. The group could not be reached for comment.