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Emergency alert issued to Nova Scotians over report of shots outside Halifax

Police in Nova Scotia issued the all-clear on Friday evening, hours after a warning about possible shootings in several Halifax suburbs rattled the fragile nerves of a wounded province.

Police in Nova Scotia issued the all-clear on Friday evening, hours after a warning about possible shootings in several Halifax suburbs rattled the fragile nerves of a wounded province.

Nova Scotia issued an emergency alert on Friday advising people to shelter in place after reports of shots fired in Hammonds Plains, Glen Arbour and Hubley — adjacent neighbourhoods northwest of the city's core. The Mounties later said the report in Glen Arbour was "noise from a construction site," and that there was no evidence of gunfire in the other communities.

"The areas of Haliburton Heights, Hubley, Tantallon and Hammonds Plains have been extensively searched," RCMP said in an email. "No evidence of shots fired. Police continue to patrol the area."

The emergency alert issued late in the afternoon said police were investigating in a wooded area between the Haliburton Hills and Highland Park Heights subdivisions.

The alert came after authorities were criticized for not issuing a similar provincewide warning over the weekend when a shooter dressed as a police officer left 22 people dead in rural Nova Scotia.

Hammonds Plains resident Pamela Lovelace said she was glad to see police using the emergency alert system to inform the public of what was happening, but it was jarring to see the message on her phone.

"With the heightened stress that we're under — COVID-19 and the isolation, and people losing their jobs — this is just a very, very difficult time for everyone here in Nova Scotia," she said.

Lovelace said her primary concern was for the community, and especially for its children.

"It's a small community, it's a small province," she said. "We're all grieving here with the incidents that took place over the weekend, so it's all just very concerning."

The alert sent people scrambling for safety, said Bruce Belliveau, who lives roughly half a kilometre from the Omega Court site in Hubley that was under investigation.

He said he was "following the rules" — closing the blinds and making sure the doors and windows were locked — as he waited for the situation to be resolved.

"It's obviously disturbing when anything like this happens, particularly given the incidents of last weekend, but I'm confident that the police are in the area investigating," Belliveau said. "I'm hoping for the best-case scenario — that it's a case of hypersensitivity."

Police also made several arrests outside a Canadian Tire store in Dartmouth in connection with an airsoft weapon the suspects were handling outside the store.

The Dartmouth arrests weren't part of the emergency alert issued by the province.

The police said they took a 26-year-old man into custody without incident, and an airsoft pistol was found in the vehicle belonging to one of the men.

Police say the men took the airsoft weapon to the parking lot and passed it back and forth and then entered the Canadian Tire to buy airsoft ammunition.

"Police do not believe that there was a threat to public safety in relation to this event, however it caused significant alarm to the witnesses," said the release.

The two men are facing charges of possession of a weapon dangerous to the public peace.

Bryan Corkery, a chef who was making a purchase at the Canadian Tire, said he had been alarmed by the sight of the two men handling the pistol and he alerted security at the store.

Corkery said there's a lot of tension in the city due to COVID-19 and the mass shooting.

"You can imagine my adrenaline was thumping pretty hard," he said.   

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

—with files from Adina Bresge in Toronto and Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg.

Nicole Thompson and Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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