RCMP offer details about timeline for mass killing in Nova Scotia

By Canadian Press

HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia RCMP provided a partial timeline of what happened last weekend when a man posing as an RCMP officer killed 22 people before he was fatally shot by police on Sunday — a little over 12 hours after he started what would become one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.

Here is a description of what happened, based on the Mounties’ latest account and witness statements. 

Saturday, April 18.

At some point on Saturday night, Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist from Halifax, violently assaults his longtime girlfriend at or near their home in Portapique, N.S.

Sources say the woman was beaten and bound in some way.

The woman later escapes into the surrounding woods along Portapique Beach Road as Wortman begins shooting people and setting fire to homes.

He kills people he knows and others at random.

Among the early victims are neighbours, Jolene Oliver, her husband Aaron Tuck and their 17-year-old daughter Emily.

Also killed in the Portapique area are Greg and Jamie Blair, who ran a local business, Peter and Joy Bond and Lisa McCully, an elementary school teacher.

Justin Zahl says the Portapique house of his parents, Elizabeth Joanne Thomas and John Zahl, burned down. They haven’t been seen since.

At 10:26 p.m., police responding to a report of a shooting arrive at the scene, where they find a gunshot victim.

The wounded person, who recovers from their injuries, tells the Mounties they were in a car when they were shot by someone driving in what appears to be a police vehicle.

Police believe the vehicle is heading away from the adjacent highway and deeper into the clutch of permanent and season homes at the east end of the Bay of Fundy. Officers believe they are closing in on the suspect because there is only one road that leads to Highway 2.

As the search continues, police find several bodies, some of which are lying along the area’s roads.

Dawn Madsen and Frank Gulenchyn, a couple originally from the Durham region in Ontario, are among the victims in Portapique. Corrie Ellison, 42, is visiting from Truro when he is fatally shot along one of the gravel roads.

There are no streetlights, but the neighbourhood is awash in an orange glow because several buildings are burning, including the suspect’s home and garage, which house two vehicles that look like police cars.

The Mounties call in police dog handlers, heavily armed emergency response teams, a helicopter, crisis negotiators and officers from New Brunswick.

At some point during the night, however, the assailant escapes the initial manhunt even though police have established a perimeter around the area.

Sunday, April 19

The gunman’s girlfriend emerges from hiding at daybreak and calls 911 from a gas station just after 6 a.m.

She tells police the suspect is wearing a police uniform and is driving a vehicle that looks identical to a fully marked RCMP cruiser.

As well, she says he has several firearms with him, including handguns and long-barrelled weapons.

At 8:02 a.m., police issue an alert on Twitter telling people there is an active shooter in the Portapique area.

Investigators eventually find a total of 13 victims at seven locations in Portapique.

At some point later that morning, police start receiving 911 calls from Hunter Road in the Wentworth area, about 50 kilometres north of Portapique.

That’s where Wortman enters a home and kills prison guards Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins, both of whom are known to him. The gunman then sets fire to their house. Another victim, Tom Bagley, is killed as he walks towards the burning house.

The timing remains unclear, but at some point Lillian Hyslop is killed while out for a morning stroll in Wentworth Valley, N.S., which is south of Wentworth.

Wortman then heads south to the Glenholme area, where he knocks on the door of a home, but the occupants — who know Wortman — don’t open. They call police and offer a description of the suspect’s look-alike police cruiser.

In nearby Debert, N.S., just after 10 a.m., the shooter pulls over two vehicles and shoots the drivers: Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton who both work for the Victorian Order of Nurses.

As police continue their search, RCMP Const. Chad Morrison is expecting to meet RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson at Highway 2 and Highway 224, which is south of Shubenacadie, N.S.

Morrison soon spots what appears to be another RCMP cruiser coming toward him, which he assumes is Stevenson’s vehicle. But it isn’t.

As Wortman pulls alongside Morrison’s vehicle, he opens fire. The officer is hit several times, but he manages to retreat and alert his fellow officers. (Morrison survives the shooting.)

The shooter then spots Stevenson’s vehicle heading northbound on Highway 2 as he drives in the opposite direction.

The two cars collide head-on.

Police say Stevenson “engaged” the gunman but she is killed in the process.

Passerby Joey Webber — out on a  family errand — is killed when he stops nearby. The gunman takes Webber’s silver SUV and heads south on Highway 224.

The killer then stops at a nearby home on the highway, where he fatally shoots a woman he knows: 54-year-old cancer survivor Gina Goulet, who also worked as a denturist.

The gunman removes his uniform, loads his weapons into the woman’s red Mazda 3 and drives south to the Irving Big Stop gas station in Enfield, about 90 kilometres south of Portapique.

That’s where he’s spotted by an RCMP officer.

The officer fatally shoots the suspect at the gas pumps at 11:26 a.m.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2020.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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