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Active shooter suspect, RCMP officer among dead in Nova Scotia

17 dead in shooting spree

UPDATE 7:40 p.m.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki confirmed late Sunday that the death toll had risen to 17, which surpasses the 14 victims killed in the 1989 Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.


UPDATE 4:48 p.m.

RCMP say more than 10 people are dead, including one of their officers, after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser went on a killing spree across northern Nova Scotia.

Police say the suspected shooter, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, was killed after being intercepted by officers in Enfield, N.S.

Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year member of the force and mother of two, was identified Sunday night as the officer killed.

"Our hearts are heavy with grief and sadness today as we have lost one of our own," Brian Sauve, president of the union representing RCMP officers, said.

RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather told a news conference that "in excess of 10 people have been killed." He said the investigation is ongoing and it is possible more bodies will be found.

"We're not fully aware what that total may be, because as we're standing here, the investigation continues into areas that we have not yet explored across the province," Leather said.

The incident began with a firearms complaint late Saturday night from Portapique, a community that shaken residents described as a quiet place to live that attracts cottagers from Halifax in summer months.

Lee Bergerman, commanding officer for the RCMP in Nova Scotia, said Stevenson was a 23-year veteran of the force and mother of two. A male officer was recovering from non-life threatening injuries.

Bergerman said many other families were in mourning.

"The impact of this incident will extend from one end of the province to the other," she said.

The first reports of the killing spree came from Portapique, where people witnessed police filling the streets and advising frightened residents of the community about 40 kilometres west of Truro to lock their homes and stay in their basements.

Leather confirmed that officers responded to a multiple 911 calls Saturday night. Upon arrival, they found "several casualties" inside and outside a Portapique residence, he said, but did not know the location of the suspect. He added there were "multiple sites in the area including structures that were on fire."

By late Sunday morning, the suspect was stopped about 90 kilometres away in Enfield, a scene that was surrounded by a half dozen police vehicles. Yellow police tape surrounded the gas pumps, and a large silver-coloured SUV was being investigated by police.

A body was seen lying at the gas station. Police would not comment on the body's identity.

Premier Stephen McNeil offered condolences to "families of the victims" and called 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 in Halifax.

"Words cannot console the families affected by what has transpired over the last 24 hours."

Through the morning, police updates about the active shooter investigation included warnings that Wortman was considered dangerous and may have been dressed as an RCMP officer in a lookalike RCMP vehicle.

Leather said this detail would be an important part of the investigation.

"The fact that this individual had a uniform and a police car at his disposal certainly speaks to it not being a random act," he said.

A Gabriel Wortman is listed as a denturist in Dartmouth, according to the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia website. A suspect photo issued by the RCMP matches video footage of a man being interviewed about dentures by CTV Atlantic in 2014.

Portapique residents who spoke with the The Canadian Press either said they did not know Wortman personally, or knew him in passing as a part-time resident who divided time between the Halifax area and his properties in the community.

David George Crockett, who lives a three-minute drive from Portapique Beach Road, the area where the first 911 calls originated, said Wortman once fixed his teeth at his home in Portapique.

"I'm very surprised," Crockett said in a brief interview outside his rural home as the sun was setting. "I never thought he would do something like that."

"From what I knew of him, he was quiet, gentle and very easy to talk to .... He was very nice. He kidded around a little bit. He seemed normal, not like someone who would do something like this."

Crockett said the horrific news that more than 10 people had been killed left him feeling overwhelmed, given the stress he and his family was already feeling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's very depressing to see someone do something like this."

A little farther down the rural road, another neighbour said he and Wortman were friends until the two had a falling out over a piece of nearby property.

The neighbour, who declined to give his name, said Wortman had burned an old shed that contained some property that belonged to the neighbour. The man said he was too overcome with emotion to say more about his relationship with Wortman or what might have motivated his rampage.

Lifelong Portapique resident Peter Hodge, 65, woke up at 1:30 a.m. and saw lights so bright, he thought it was a fire. He then realized that the bright lights were from "probably upwards of 14 police cars in the community."

Christine Mills, another resident, said it had been a frightening night for the community, which was suddenly filled with armed officers patrolling the streets. In the morning, helicopters flew overhead searching for the suspect.

She said she was fearful the shooter might have gone through the woods and attempted to enter her home.

"It's nerve-wracking because you don't know if somebody has lost their mind and is going to beat in your front door," she said.

Tom Taggart, a councillor who represents the Portapique area in the Municipality of Colchester, said the quiet community has been shaken.

"This is just an absolutely wonderful, peaceful quiet community, and the idea that this could happen in our community is unbelievable," Taggart said by phone from his home in Bass River, about three kilometres away from Portapique.

Mills said police officers walked through the community with their guns drawn through the night, and helicopters had been flying over homes on Sunday morning.

Taggart said he didn't know Wortman well, but spoke to him a few times when he telephoned about municipal issues, and described knowing Wortman's "lovely big home" on Portapique Beach Road.

Police publicly identified Wortman about nine hours after an initial tweet around midnight asking people to avoid the Portapique area and stay indoors as officers responded to a firearms complaint.

Cpl. Lisa Croteau, public information officer with the provincial force, said the police received a call about "a person with firearms" at around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and the investigation "evolved into an active shooting investigation."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented on the situation during his morning press conference focusing on the COVID-19 crisis.

"My heart goes out to everyone affected in what is a terrible situation," he said. "I want to thank the police for their hard work and people for co-operating with authorities."

UPDATE: 1:24 p.m.

ENFIELD, N.S. - A suspect in an active shooter investigation and an RCMP officer are dead after a lengthy police chase in Nova Scotia.

A source with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed the suspect died Sunday at the Enfield, N.S., gas station about 35 kilometres northwest of downtown Halifax.

The suspect was identified by the RCMP as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman.

The RCMP was scheduled to hold a news conference later Sunday.

The union representing RCMP officers says a member was killed and another was injured in Nova Scotia's Colchester County during a manhunt that police say has resulted in "multiple victims."

More coming.


ORIGINAL: 12:04 p.m.

ENFIELD, N.S. - A suspect in an active shooter investigation was in custody Sunday at an Irving service station in Nova Scotia, after police said there were "multiple victims" in an incident that began in a small coastal village where frightened local residents took cover in their basements overnight.

A man identified by the RCMP as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman was in custody at the Enfield, N.S., gas station about 35 kilometres northwest of downtown Halifax.

By late morning local time the scene was surrounded by a half dozen police vehicles. Yellow police tape surrounded the gas pumps, and a large silver-coloured SUV was being investigated by police.

A body was seen lying at the gas station. Police would not comment on the body's identity.

Police didn't immediately say how many victims there were, or the nature of their injuries, but Premier Stephen McNeil offered condolences to "families of the victims" and called 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 in Halifax at a previously scheduled news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic. "Words cannot console the families affected by what has transpired over the last 24 hours." McNeil did not confirm any deaths, and asked people not to speculate or spread rumours as the "active investigation" continues and the families grieve. "We're all in shock that such a thing could happen here in Nova Scotia, and there's a heavy burden to bear on top of COVID-19. But now more than ever we must stay strong together," he said. The incident started in the small, rural town of Portapique with residents reporting police vehicles filling the streets and advising residents of the community about 40 kilometres west of Truro to lock their homes and stay in their basements.

Several building fires were reported by residents as well, but police didn't immediately confirm details.

Christine Mills, a resident of the town, said it had been a frightening night for the small town, which suddenly filled with armed officers patrolling the streets. In the morning, helicopters flew overhead searching for the suspect.

"I feel better now to know he's in custody," she said, adding she was fearful the shooter might have gone through the woods and attempted to enter her home.

"It's nerve wracking because you don't know if somebody has lost their mind and is going to beat in your front door," she said.

Tom Taggart, a councillor who represents the Portapique area in the Municipality of Colchester, said the quiet community has been shaken.

"This is just an absolutely wonderful, peaceful quiet community and the idea that this could happen in our community is unbelievable," Taggart said by phone from his home in Bass River, about three kilometres from the lockdown area.

"People live here because of the peace and quiet and it's just an absolute tragedy."

The RCMP stated earlier in the day the suspect was driving a car that looked like a police vehicle, but by 11 a.m. local time he was "believed to be driving a small, silver Chevrolet SUV," travelling southbound on Highway 102.

Mills said police officers walked through the community with their guns drawn through the night, and helicopters had been flying over homes on Sunday morning. Cpl. Lisa Croteau, public information officer with the provincial force, confirmed a tweet saying there are "multiple victims" but could not provide a number or say whether any people had been killed.

The suspect appeared to have moved over 100 kilometres between Portapique and Enfield before his arrest. The RCMP posted an update on Twitter just after 10:15 a.m., warning that the male suspect was in the Debert and Central Oslow area and may be dressed as a police officer in a police lookalike vehicle.

In an earlier tweet, the police force identified the suspect as Wortman, describing him as "armed and dangerous."

A Gabriel Wortman is listed as a denturist in Dartmouth, according to the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia website. A suspect photo issued by the RCMP matches video footage of a man being interviewed about dentures by CTV Atlantic in 2014.

Mills also said that Wortman was known locally as a denturist who divided his time between a residence in Halifax and a residence in Portapique.

Taggart said he didn't know Wortman well, but spoke to him a few times when he telephoned about municipal issues.

Taggart described knowing Wortman's "lovely big home" on Portapique Beach Road. He said Wortman owned a few other properties in the community and was believed to divide his time between Portapique and his business in Dartmouth.

He described Portapique as "cottage country," with about 100 year-round residents and 250 in the summer.

"You just don't even dream that this is going to happen," he said. "I can't fathom it."

Police identified Wortman about nine hours after an initial tweet around midnight asking people to avoid the Portapique area and stay indoors as officers responded to a firearms complaint.

Croteau said the police received a call about "a person with firearms" at around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and the investigation "evolved into an active shooting investigation."

She said some people were evacuated around Portapique Beach Road, Bay Shore Road and Five Houses Road, where the first complaint initiated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented on the situation during his morning press conference focusing on the COVID-19 crisis.

"My heart goes out to everyone affected in what is a terrible situation," he said. "I want to thank the police for their hard work and people for co-operating with authorities."



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