A person leaves flowers at a make-shift memorial dedicated to Constable Heidi Stevenson at RCMP headquarters in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Monday, April 20, 2020. Investigators say a killer’s use of a mock police cruiser and an RCMP uniform almost identical to the real thing helped him escape detection as he travelled between 16 crime scenes in a rampage that has left at least 19 dead in Nova Scotia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith

Nova Scotia RCMP say shooter acted alone

Police received a 911 call of a firearms incident in Portapique, N.S., at 10:26 p.m. Saturday

As an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia Sunday morning, the U.S. Consulate in Halifax sent emailed alerts to its citizens warning of the danger at a time when the RCMP was using Twitter to communicate the news.

Questions have been raised as to why no emergency alerts were transmitted to Nova Scotians’ cellphones and television screens as a rampage was underway that would leave 23 dead, including the gunman.

When Premier Stephen McNeil was asked Wednesday why the province didn’t issue an emergency alert based on the Mounties’ Twitter feed, he said emergency officials couldn’t act until the RCMP had prepared an approved message.

“That’s the protocol in place when it comes to the (Emergency Management Office),” the premier told a news conference.

“The lead agency is the one that has to put the message together. We would not go from what’s happening on Twitter …. No message was received, even though EMO had reached out a number of times throughout the morning to the RCMP.”

At a news conference Wednesday, RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather said police received a 911 call of a firearms incident in Portapique, N.S., at 10:26 p.m. Saturday. They soon determined there had been a homicide but did not realize the suspect had left the area they were searching until 8:02 the next morning, he said.

He said the EMO contacted the RCMP at 10:15 a.m. to ask about sending an emergency message, and police were crafting a message when the suspect was killed almost two hours later.

Marcia R. Seitz-Ehler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate, said the consulate’s emailed alert warning of a shooter in Portapique and advising people to remain at home with their doors locked was drawn from information on the Nova Scotia RCMP Twitter account.

“It is our protocol — when emergencies occur — to alert U.S. citizens in the area to the situation,” she said. She did not immediately respond to an inquiry about what time the U.S. alert was sent. The first RCMP tweet about an active shooter was transmitted at 8:02 a.m. Sunday.

READ MORE:

Residents of some of the five communities where the killer struck have said they would have changed their behaviour had an alert been sent.

David Matthews was walking with his wife in Wentworth Sunday morning when they heard a “pop,” which they said sounded like it could be a gunshot, or perhaps just a car backfiring.

Shortly after the Matthews returned home, their phone started ringing with warnings from friends that there was an active shooter on the loose in the neighbourhood. They later learned that a fellow walker was gunned down that morning on a road nearby.

“In my mind, there should have been some provincial alert … (that) you’ve got to be careful, because there’s an active shooter in the area,” Matthews told The Canadian Press.

On Tuesday, police confirmed the rampage had left 22 victims, including neighbours, a family of three, a teacher, two nurses, two correctional officers and an RCMP officer.

Leather said investigators have confirmed that 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, who was killed by police Sunday, acted alone. He said investigators are still trying to determine whether anyone assisted the gunman leading up to the incident.

The RCMP have said the suspect at one point was driving a vehicle that was “identical” to an RCMP cruiser and he was wearing an “authentic” RCMP uniform. Police have said the mock cruiser and uniform helped the shooter escape detection.

Leather said Wednesday police were not aware that the suspect was dressed as an RCMP officer and driving the mock cruiser until some time between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday. He said that key information came from a witness.

The RCMP have said that after arriving in Portapique they discovered several casualties inside and outside of a home. Some homes in the area had been set on fire and police confirmed that victims have been found inside some of these buildings.

The search for the shooter continued through the night and into Sunday as police tracked the suspect through several small communities in northern Nova Scotia, including Wentworth, Debert and Shubenacadie, where several victims were found.

Police say the suspect shot people he knew, killed others at random and had planned the massacre.

“Our thoughts are with all of the victims’ families and we are particularly mindful of families who have not yet received confirmation that their loved ones were involved,” the RCMP said in a statement Tuesday.

“This is an unprecedented incident that has resulted in incredible loss and heartbreak for countless families and loved ones.”

Wortman, a Halifax-based denturist originally from New Brunswick, was fatally shot by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., around noon on Sunday.

There are 16 crime scenes spread over a 90-kilometre distance. A total of five structures were set on fire, though the exact sequence of events remains unclear.

The Canadian military has been called in to help the Nova Scotia RCMP investigate one of the largest mass murders in the country’s history.

The military issued a statement saying it has provided personnel, modular tents, lights, tables, chairs and generators to a number of locations in the province.

Photos from Portapique, N.S., show a large military truck and a number of other smaller vehicles parked along the entrance to Portapique Beach Road, where the shooting rampage started late Saturday.

Michael MacDonald and Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Valley Regional Library branches offer curbside pick up

After two and a half months of being closed, people can once again check books out of the library

EDITORIAL: Why I wear a mask and you should, too

Editor Adam Louis says it’s about more than the practical

School board briefs: SD78 planning for June re-start of in-classroom learning

Board says goodbyes to trustee Koopman, Coquihalla school talks recycling, absenteeism

‘My spirit hurts, I want her home’: Family shares pain, fond memories at vigil for April Parisian

The 45-year-old Indigenous woman, who made her home in Spuzzum, has been missing since early April

District of Kent reopening facilities to the public

Enhanced COVID-19 protocols in place throughout

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

B.C.’s police watchdog probing death of Richmond man in alleged shoplifting incident

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is asking any witnesses to come forward

Most Read