Shooter disguises himself as a police officer, kills at least 18 people.
Canada’s deadliest mass shooting took place this month in Nova Scotia after a gunman dressed in police garb fatally shot at least 18 victims. The shooter was later identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, who also died. He did not provide a motive for the crime spree.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said police were investigating 16 locations across central and northern Nova Scotia and disclosed that some of the victims knew Wortman, while others seemed to be chosen at random.
“We’re relatively confident we’ve identified all the crime scenes,” Leather said. “We have had five structure fires, most of those being residences, and we believe there may be victims still within the remains of those homes which burnt to the ground.” He added, “The dead included a police officer. Another was wounded by gunfire and was recovering at home.”
The deceased officer was identified as Constable Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and a 23-year police veteran. “The 18 innocent lives lost will be remembered throughout Canada’s history,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said. Other victims included a teacher and health care workers, among others.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained, “The vast majority of Nova Scotians will have a direct link with one or more of the victims. The entire province and country is grieving right now as we come to grips with something that is unimaginable. The pandemic will prevent us from mourning together in person, but a vigil will be held virtually to celebrate the lives of the victims.”
Authorities said Wortman not only wore a police uniform during the rampage but made his car look like a Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruiser. “His ability to move around the province undetected was surely greatly benefited by the fact that he had a vehicle that looked identical in every way to a marked police car,” Leather said. He added, eventually the suspect was forced to abandon his car and “carjacked other vehicles to continue to circulate around the province steps ahead of our investigators.”
Authorities believe Wortman acted alone, and he did not have a previous criminal history. Police initially announced the shooter had been arrested at a gas station in the area, but later announced he had died. It was not clear how. Atlantic Denture Clinic, the practice Wortman owned, had been closed for the past month because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the incident may be related. Mental health experts believe the pandemic could result in a 10-20% increase in demand for mental health services, increasing rates of trauma-related symptoms, including depression, anxiety and even suicide.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said, “We cannot forget that in the midst of this tragedy we are still fighting a deadly virus. Now more than ever we need your cooperation. It takes inner strength. The best that we can honor the victims of this tragedy is to continue to act in a way that protects our fellow Nova Scotians.”
Trudeau said, in response to the incident, the government would accelerate its plans to “introduce further gun control legislation prohibiting military-style assault weapons.”