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Nova Scotia shooting death toll climbs to 23 as RCMP locate more victims

Nova Scotia shooting: Police say at least 23 people dead across multiple crime scenes
WATCH ABOVE: The death toll continues to rise in the Nova Scotia shooting spree, which is already considered the deadliest in Canada's history. Alexa MacLean reports on what investigators are looking for across multiple crime scenes.

Nova Scotia RCMP say they now believe 23 people are dead following the weekend’s mass shooting in rural Nova Scotia communities.

Police say they are in the midst of a “detailed and complex” investigation at 16 crime scenes, which include five burned buildings and are spread across the communities of Portapique, Wentworth, Debert, Shubenacadie/Milford and Enfield.

Police have said some of the victims were known to the suspect but some were not.

READ MORE: Military will be supporting investigation into Nova Scotia mass shooting, sources say

Nova Scotia shooting: Death toll in N.S. shooting spree expected to rise
Nova Scotia shooting: Death toll in N.S. shooting spree expected to rise

The RCMP believes the murder and arson rampage was committed by one person alone. The suspect was shot dead by police on Sunday outside a gas station in Enfield.

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Police say they are not speculating on the suspect’s motives and would not say whether the event was planned.

“There are several aspects of the investigation, including interviews, processing crime scenes, analytical work and searches of (the suspect’s) properties,” police said.

Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates incidents involving police that result in serious injury, death, sexual assault or domestic violence, is investigating two additional incidents surrounding the discharge of firearms by two members of the RCMP.

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

The rampage marked the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.

Suspect wore ‘authentic’ police uniform

Police have said that during the shooting, the suspect was wearing part of a police uniform and was seen driving a mock-up police cruiser. The suspect was not a member of the RCMP.

In an updated news release on Tuesday, Nova Scotia RCMP confirmed that the police uniform was authentic, but did not expand on the statement.

Nova Scotia shooting: RCMP confirm suspect had police uniform, ‘mock-up’ police vehicle
Nova Scotia shooting: RCMP confirm suspect had police uniform, ‘mock-up’ police vehicle

Nova Scotia RCMP announced they would not be holding a media briefing Tuesday, only providing an update in a news release.

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“This was an unprecedented event and as soon as we learned that the suspect was possibly in a replica police cruiser and wearing what appeared to be an RCMP uniform, we immediately informed the public,” the RCMP stated.

“Nova Scotians can rest assured that the RCMP is committed to keeping the public informed and instructing Nova Scotians on how to protect themselves from threats to public safety.”

RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather confirmed Monday that the fake police car was located at the crime scene that involved the killing of RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year member of the force.

“Heidi was a devoted mother to 13-year-old Connor, and 11-year-old Ava, a wife to Dean, and loving daughter,” police said in Tuesday’s release.

“She was incredibly proud to be a member of the RCMP and of the work she did as a part of this organization.”

READ MORE: RCMP mourns loss of officer killed in Nova Scotia shooting spree

Another RCMP member was injured, but Leather confirmed Const. Chad Morrison, an 11-year RCMP member, is now at home recovering.

Shooting spree timeline updated

Police provided an updated timeline on how the events unfolded over the weekend.

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RCMP say the initial firearms complaint came in at around 10:30 p.m. at a residence in Portapique, N.S., where members located “several casualties inside and outside of the home.”

Police say they did not locate a suspect.

Nova Scotia in state of shock following shooting rampage
Nova Scotia in state of shock following shooting rampage

On Sunday, Portapique residents Lisa and Laurie George told Global News that they noticed flames at a nearby home at around 11 p.m., eventually seeing three separate fires in the area.

The couple said a large group of police quickly arrived in response, followed by gunshots before RCMP told them to go home.

On Tuesday, the RCMP confirmed they recovered the remains from “some” of the locations of the fires, but did not say from which community or communities.

Police were asking the public to avoid the area, describing the matter as a “very quickly evolving situation and a chaotic scene.”

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READ MORE: Timeline: What we know about the Nova Scotia shooting spree

On Sunday morning, police identified the suspect in an “active shooter” situation, describing the man as “armed and dangerous.” Nova Scotia RCMP provided updates on the man’s suspected whereabouts on their Twitter account in the hours that followed.

The RCMP tweeted that the suspect was “in custody” at 11:40 a.m. Sunday. It was later revealed that the suspect died. An emergency alert was not sent out by the RCMP to residents.

Speaking at a COVID-19 media briefing Tuesday, Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed that the province was notified of the situation at around midnight Saturday, when they were told there were structure fires that couldn’t be put out and may spread.

“We were then asked for some air support later in the morning to go provide air support,” McNeil said. “Our EMO centre was activated, has been activated. We brought in staff that had come in that especially deal with the alert system.”

McNeil says the lead agency, the RCMP, is responsible for requesting that alert to go out.

“Quite frankly, we need the information from them, what is it they want in that alert to notify to citizens,” he said.

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“We had staff on hand in the morning to be able to do that but it was not requested.”