The RCMP is mourning the loss of one of their own after an officer was killed on-duty during a deadly rampage that left 17 dead, including the suspect, in Nova Scotia.
“What has unfolded overnight and into this morning is incomprehensible,” Nova Scotia Commanding Officer Lee Bergerman told reporters Sunday, adding that another officer was being treated in hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
“It’s with tremendous sadness that we have lost Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force who was killed this morning while responding to an active shooter incident.”
Bergerman said she met with Stevenson’s family earlier Sunday afternoon.
“There are no words to describe their pain,” she said. “Two children have lost their mother and a husband has lost his wife. Parents have lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.”
RCMP initially said at least 10 had been killed, including Wortman, but provided updates later on Sunday evening, revising the death toll to 17 including the suspect.
With 16 victims, the rampage was among the deadliest in Canadian history, surpassing the death toll of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.
Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist, has been named the suspect. Police say he is now dead, and the incident has been referred to the province’s police watchdog agency.
Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said officers responded to multiple calls at a residence in Portapique, N.S., a rural community located Colchester County. When they arrived, Leather said police found “several” bodies in and outside the home.
Leather said he was unaware of any previous convictions Wortman may have had. Some of the shootings appeared to be “random in nature,” he said.
He noted some of the people killed during the mass shooting “appeared not to have a relationship with the shooter.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson that police don’t know the suspect’s motive, but she added that it may have shifted from the initial stages and “turned to something random.”
“A lot of work will be on the investigation, processing the scenes and getting a good idea of who this suspect was, because I think the families of the victims deserve that,” she said.
She called it an “extremely dynamic situation” and said there were multiple scenes over a large area.
“My heart goes out to all the families of the victims. Of course, our RCMP family, who are part of that community, it’s going to be a long road to recovery,” she said.
Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, thanked officers involved in the manhunt for Wortman in a statement and offered his condolences to grieving families.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all our RCMP Brothers and Sisters, all of the victims’ families, the community of Colchester County and the province of Nova Scotia as we mourn the loss of Canadians,” the statement read.
“Our thoughts are with everyone who experienced great loss today, so tragically and unnecessarily. There are no words.”
The Ontario RCMP also tweeted out their respects to Stevenson.
“We mourn the loss of Constable Heidi Stevenson, who died in the line of duty. Sending heartfelt condolences to our colleagues in Nova Scotia, and deep sympathy to her family and friends,” the tweet said.
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “saddened” to learn about the “senseless violence” in Nova Scotia that claimed multiple lives, including Stevenson’s.
“Every day, law enforcement members put themselves in harm’s way to ensure our safety and well-being,” he said.
“As a country, in moments like these, we come together to support one another. Together we will mourn with the families of the victims, and help them get through this difficult time.”
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage called the shooting “horrific beyond belief” on Twitter.
“If the last month seems like a bad dream, today is a nightmare,” the tweet read.
“To the family of @RCMPNS Heidi Stevenson, all Canadians stand with you.”
Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair also offered his condolences to Stevenson’s family.
In a tweet, he said his “heart goes out to the families of all those lost in today’s tragic incident in Portapique, including the family of RCMP member Heidi Stevenson,” and thanked the RCMP for their service.