21 Apr 2020

Death toll rises in Nova Scotia mass shooting

8:30 am on 21 April 2020

The death toll from the worst mass shooting in Canadian history has risen to 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, with the tally including including a police officer and the gunman.

A Wentworth volunteer firefighter douses hotspots near destroyed vehicles linked to Sunday's deadly shooting rampage on April 20, 2020 in Wentworth Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada.

A Wentworth volunteer firefighter douses hotspots near destroyed vehicles linked to the deadly shooting rampage in Wentworth Centre, Nova Scotia. Photo: AFP

"A gunman claimed the lives of at least 18 people, among them a woman in uniform whose job it is to protect lives even if it endangers her own," Trudeau told reporters, referring to Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable Heidi Stevenson, who was killed yesterday in the shooting spree in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia.

"It happened in small towns: Portapique, Truro, Milford and Enfield, places where people have deep roots, places where people know their neighbours and look out for one another," Trudeau said.

"Violence of any kind has no place in Canada. We stand with you and we grieve with you," he said, addressing the nation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comments on the shooting in Nova Scotia during a news conference April 20, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada.

Justin Trudeau says the mass shooting has disrupted the lives of people in small towns with deep roots. Photo: AFP

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters this was "one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province's history".

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the gunman, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, who worked as a denturist, appeared at one stage to have been wearing part of a police uniform.

He had also painstakingly disguised his car to look like a police cruiser.

The 12-hour rampage started on Sunday and ended with a car chase.

Police said the suspect shot people at different locations in Nova Scotia, many of them randomly. He was killed in a confrontation with police.

The tragedy began when police officers responded to a "firearms complaint" at a home in the small town of Portapique and advised residents to lock themselves indoors.

The officers found "several casualties" inside and outside the home, but did not find the suspect.

A neighbour told CBC News that he saw three properties were also on fire in the area at the time.

RCMP officers continued pursuing Wortman for hours, following a series of crime scenes that police said were "scattered across the province" and which they are still working to piece together.

He was killed after being intercepted by officers at a petrol station in Enfield, about 92km south of Portapique. Witnesses reported seeing a body lying on the ground.

Policewoman among victims

This undated and unlocated handout photo released on April 19, 2020 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Nova Scotia via Facebook shows Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force, who was among the victims of a shooting rampage in Nova Scotia.

Heidi Stevenson Photo: AFP / Royal Canadian Mounted Police

RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who had served in the force for 23 years, was among those killed.

"Heidi answered the call of duty and lost her life while protecting those she served," Nova Scotia RCMP commanding officer, assistant commissioner Lee Bergerman said in a Facebook post.

"Two children have lost their mother and a husband his wife. Parents lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague," Commissioner Bergerman said.

Lisa McCully, a teacher at Debert Elementary School, was also killed in the attack, according to a statement from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

It said union members - along with colleagues, students, family and friends - were heartbroken, adding that McCully was known "not only as a passionate teacher but as a shining love in their lives".

Other victims listed by the Globe and Mail newspaper included Jamie Blair and Greg Blair; and Heather O'Brien, a nurse from Truro, east of Portapique.

Gunman's motivation 'turned to randomness'

Neighbours say Wortman owned a successful denture clinic in Dartmouth, and had a strong interest in RCMP and RCMP memorabilia, the Globe reports.

Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said he was not aware that Wortman had a history of violence, or extremist political views, and that there did not appear to be anything linking the victims to each other.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she believed the gunman had an initial "motivation" that "turned to randomness", according to CBC News.

The police provided few details about how the suspected gunman died.

At his press conference, Trudeau celebrated the first responders at the scene in Nova Scotia but did not name Wortman.

"Do not give him the infamy" he so wanted, the prime minister said.

- Reuters / BBC

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