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Nova Scotia shooting: What we know about the alleged gunman

RCMP describe ‘mock police car’ used by suspect in deadly Nova Scotia shooting
WATCH: RCMP describe 'mock police car' used by suspect in deadly Nova Scotia shooting

The man identified as the Nova Scotia gunman who killed at least 19 people was charged with assault in October 2001, according to a court document obtained by Global News.

Gabriel Wortman, 51, ultimately pleaded guilty in January 2002 and was given a conditional discharge. He was also ordered to stay away from the victim and pay a fine, according to the documents.

The deadliest massacres in Canadian history
The deadliest massacres in Canadian history

His address listed on the charge sheet is 193 Portland St. in Dartmouth, N.S., and matches the address for the Atlantic Denture Clinic he owned, according to property records.

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The documents did not provide any information about what happened during the assault or what caused the altercation.

READ MORE: Here’s what we know about the victims of the Nova Scotia mass shooting

The alleged gunman was also recently involved in an encounter with Halifax Regional Police over an unmarked police vehicle that was parked in the parking lot of his denture clinic.

Const. John MacLeod of the Halifax Regional Police confirmed to Global News that some of the department’s officers encountered Wortman in February.

“I wouldn’t be able to comment, on how [Wortman] took it,” MacLeod said. “We had been at that [parking lot] for an unrelated matter.”

MacLeod said that RCMP “have access to our information,” if there was any need to look at the encounter.

Details are slowly beginning to emerge about the man who police say was killed Sunday following a 12-hour rampage where he allegedly killed at least 19 people while dressed as a Mountie and driving a mock RCMP cruiser.

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Police identified the man on Sunday morning as the suspect in a shooting spree that began the night before in the area of Portapique, N.S. — roughly 120 kilometres north of Halifax.

A body matching the description of the shooter was seen at the Enfield Big Stop on Highway 102 a more than 90-minute drive from where the shooting started.

The shootings left at least 19 people dead in multiple locations across the province. The victims include RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and a 23-year veteran of the force. Another officer was also injured.

During the manhunt, the RCMP released an image of what appeared to be an RCMP vehicle and warned the suspect may be driving the vehicle and wearing an RCMP uniform.

A person with the same name as the shooter is listed as a denturist in the Halifax area on the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia. According to Nova Scotia property records, he owned the Atlantic Denture Clinic and two large properties in Portapique, N.S.

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Nova Scotia RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather said Monday that investigators were currently processing at least 16 crime scenes and called the investigation “extremely complex.”

“We will be in this for months to come,” Leather 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.”

Leather said five of the crime 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.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia community reeling as shooting spree death toll continues to climb

Leather said police were still investigating how he got an RCMP uniform and built a nearly identical police cruiser.

“In terms of police uniforms we don’t know the origin of the uniform, but we certainly have reason to believe they were actual uniforms or very good facsimiles,” he said.

Investigation underway into Portapique gunman’s motives
Investigation underway into Portapique gunman’s motives

Neighbour Nancy Hudson told the Canadian Press said she met the assailant about 18 years ago when he bought the property on Portapique Beach Road near her home on Highway 2.

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“He was very jovial,” she said in an interview. “But there is another side to Gabe. He had some issues, especially with his girlfriend.”

Hudson said she and her husband used to socialize with the alleged gunman and detected “some underlying issues that I think he had with his relationship.

“It was a red flag …. [What happened on the weekend] wasn’t a surprise to some degree, but not to this extreme,” she said, adding that he was obsessed with his girlfriend.

“Just being jealous about things with her. I think that’s where things got in the way …. She was a beautiful girl.”

Former clients described on social media Wortman’s affinity for buying and refurbishing old police cars.

Halifax resident Blaize Jones confirmed to Global News he was a client of Wortman’s denture clinic and talked about fixing up old police cars.

“He did talk about buying used vehicles from the auction in Nova Scotia,” Jones said in a Facebook message.

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Billy Swiminer said Wortman made his dentures in January and that he described buying police cars at an auction.

“He showed me pics of a cruiser that he redid,” Swiminer wrote. “It’s exactly like an actual RCMP police car, and he has the uniform to go with it!”

The Atlantic Denture Clinic is guarded by police in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
The Atlantic Denture Clinic is guarded by police in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told Global News police don’t know the suspect’s motive, but said 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.

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“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.

The suspect graduated from Riverview High School in New Brunswick in 1986, according to photos from a yearbook. His yearbook entry described him “doing wheelies on his Honda XR 500R dirtbike and going skiing with friends.”

“His dislikes include cold weather and English,” the yearbook said. “Gabe’s future may include being an RCMP officer.”

His business was likely closed by the COVID-19 pandemic as the province had closed most dental clinics for everything but emergency procedures in mid-March.

*With files from Global News’ Sam Cooper, Alexander Quon, Mercedes Stephenson and The Canadian Press