A weekend shooting in Portapique, N.S., has left “in excess of 19” people dead, including an RCMP officer killed in the line of duty, officials said Monday.
RCMP initially said there were at least 10 victims, but then issued updates later on Sunday evening, revising the death toll to 17 including the suspected gunman. That death toll was again revised on Monday to upwards of 19.
Gabriel Wortman, 51, is believed to be the primary suspect in the killing spree.
Here’s what we know so far about the rampage, based on a Sunday afternoon briefing by RCMP criminal operations officer Chief Supt. Chris Leather:
Nova Scotia RCMP responded to a firearms call at a residence in Portapique, N.S., a rural community located in Colchester County.
Supt. Leather said there were “multiple 911 calls.”
“When police arrived at the scene, members located several casualties inside and outside of the home,” he said.
“They did not however locate the suspect.”
He described it as a “very quickly evolving situation and a chaotic scene.”
“Many units responded, including emergency response teams and police dog services,” Leather said. They also received assistance from other police services, including Halifax Regional Police.
At the time, the focus was on “the safety of the residents in the immediate area.”
“We secured the area and began a search for the suspect,” he said.
Leather said at one point during the evening, the suspect was wearing at least a portion of a police uniform, and a vehicle that was made to look like an RCMP cruiser.
The initial search “led to multiple sites in the area, including structures that were on fire.”
Lisa and Laurie George, both residents of Portapique, told Global News that at approximately 11 p.m. on Saturday they saw flames nearby, eventually seeing three separate fires in the area.
The police search continued overnight and into Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning, RCMP officers “actively sought out the suspect through multiple communities” in the province, Leather said.
This search ended once the suspect was located. Leather confirmed that the suspect is dead and that the matter has been referred to SiRT — the Serious Incident Response Team, which is Nova Scotia’s independent police watchdog.
A body matching the description of Wortman was seen at the Enfield Big Stop on Highway 102.
He said details of some portions of the investigation won’t be revealed since SiRT is actively probing.
In a statement, SiRT said it is probing the “shooting of a male in Enfield by RCMP officers.”
According to the police watchdog, RCMP officers responded to a “series of serious criminal events in Colchester County” on Saturday night.
“The male suspect fled the area,” SiRT said. “On Sunday morning, the suspect was involved in a serious criminal event in Shubenacadie.”
“A confrontation with police followed in Enfield, resulting in officers discharging their firearms. The suspect was found to be deceased at the scene.”
Leather said the investigation is “early and very active” and involves multiple crime scenes and victims. Further updates will come once more information is available, he added.
At a press conference Monday, RCMP Chief Supt. Leather said the force is processing at least 16 crime scenes.
“We will be in this for months to come,” he said. “His ability to move around the province undetected was surely greatly benefited by the fact that he had a vehicle that looked identical in every way to a marked police vehicle.”
Five of the scenes involve burned-out buildings and police expect to find more bodies inside. He also said that some of the victims were known to the suspect while others who were targeted did not know him.
The RCMP have identified the dead police officer as Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force who leaves behind a husband and two children.
Another RCMP officer is in hospital receiving treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union identified elementary school teacher Lisa McCully as one of the victims.
“9,300 NSTU hearts are broken along with those of her colleagues and students at Debert Elementary, as well as her family and friends who knew her not only as a passionate teacher but as a shining love in their lives,” said a statement by union president Paul Wozney.
He added Const. Stevenson’s husband is also a teacher.
“We send our love and care to them as they face this sudden news,” Wozney wrote.
In a statement on its website, VON Canada confirmed two of its employees, Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton, died during Sunday’s shooting.
“All of our front-line care providers are heroes,” VON Canada wrote. “Yesterday, two of those heroes, Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton, were taken from their families, and from VON.
“We mourn their loss, and we mourn for their families.”
VON Canada said O’Brien was a licensed practical nurse, wife, mother and grandmother, while Beaton was a continuing care assistant, a wife and mother.
Greg and Jamie Blair were gunned down in their home in Portapique, N.S., according to The Canadian Press.
Tammy Oliver-McCurdie, the sister of Jolene Oliver, told The Canadian Press that she learned Sunday evening that her sister’s family, neighbours of the killer, had been found dead in their Portapique home. Jolene Oliver, 39, Aaron Tuck, 45, and their 17-year-old daughter had moved to the community a few years ago.
Frank Gulenchyn and Dawn Madsen were identified as victims of the shooting in a statement by the Regional Municipality of Durham.
Details about the others who lost their lives have not been released at this time.
With upwards of 19 dead, the rampage was among the deadliest in Canadian history, surpassing the death toll of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.
— With files by Global News reporters Graeme Benjamin, Rachael D’amore, Andrew Russell, Stewart Bell, The Canadian Press