No charges warranted in Onslow Fire Hall shooting: Ontario SIRT

Investigators from Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) brought in to analyze new evidence in the Onslow Fire Hall shooting during the Nova Scotia Mass shooting have concluded that no charges should be brought against two RCMP officers.

The incident happened during the pursuit of Gabriel Wortman when RCMP constables Terry Brown and Dave Melanson stopped at the fire hall and fired a total of 5 shots at a person that they believed to be the suspect.

The report released on Friday said that “Based on everything the two officers had seen and heard, they had reasonable grounds to believe that the person they saw was the suspect and someone who would continue his killing rampage. They discharged their weapons in order to prevent further deaths or serious injuries.”

The report concluded that “the totality of the evidence establishes that the officers had reasonable grounds to believe the person they saw, who was disobeying their orders, was the mass murderer who had, in the preceding hour, killed three more persons.”

“Accordingly, no criminal offence was committed, and no charges are warranted against either officer.”

While no one was hurt, some inside the firehall, including two firefighters, were left traumatized. Five shots were fired in total. Bullet fragments hit an outside wall, the firehall’s garage door and a fire truck.

Onslow was one of more than a dozen largely rural communities the killer drove through during a 13-hour rampage that started in Portapique, N.S., on the night of April 18, 2020. Gabriel Wortman disguised himself as a Mountie and drove a car that looked exactly like an RCMP cruiser. Wortman fatally shot 13 people on the first night, and nine the next day, including a pregnant woman and an RCMP officer. 

He was shot dead later that day by two Mounties at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.

The SIU’s report marks the second time Brown and Melanson have been cleared of wrongdoing.

In March 2021, the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) — Nova Scotia’s police oversight agency — found that the “totality of the evidence” led the officers to believe the killer was standing just 88 metres away when they stopped their unmarked car in front of the firehall.

At the time, the two officers had been told the gunman was wearing a high-visibility orange safety vest and had a replica RCMP.

The officers later told SIRT investigators that as they drove past the firehall, they spotted an RCMP cruiser in the parking lot and a man in a reflective vest standing next to the vehicle. The SIRT report says the two officers repeatedly tried to advise other RCMP officers by radio of what they were seeing but couldn’t get through because the radios were jammed by too many transmissions. 

The full report is available here.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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