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Nova Scotia gunman charged with assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2001

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

Matthew said he was just 15 years old when an allegedly drunk Gabriel Wortman assaulted him outside a denture clinic in Dartmouth, N.S., almost 20 years ago.

It was the fall of 2001 when Matthew said he was waiting to catch a ride home at a bus stop in front of 193 Portland St., the same address as Wortman’s Atlantic Denture Clinic.

That’s when the denturist came outside screaming that the teenager was too close to his business.

“He came out, I guess, in a half-drunken rage and ended up punching me as many times in the head as he could,” said Matthew, who is now 34 and works in sales in Dartmouth. Global News has chosen not to reveal Matthew’s full name as he was a minor at the time of the assault.

“Then he had a friend who came over from around the corner and hit me with a crowbar,” Matthew said. “Then the two men stomped on my head and all over my body.”

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia killer had history of dubious financial practices

The court documents related to Wortman’s arrest do not mention a second person. Global News called and emailed Halifax Regional Police for comment but has not yet received a response.

Matthew said he tried to defend himself and was thrown into a newspaper box as the assault ended and police officers arrived.

The denturist was charged with assault in October 2001, according to court documents.

Wortman, who was 33 at the time of the arrest, ultimately pleaded guilty in January 2002 and was given a conditional discharge and nine months’ probation. He was also ordered to stay away from the victim, according to the documents.

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“I think there should have been a little bit more justice there,” Matthew said.

“A grown man beating up on basically a young teenage kid.”

The assault is one detail of an apparently turbulent past of the man who RCMP believe carried out the worst mass killing in modern Canadian history over the weekend.

The RCMP says the gunman killed at least 22 people during a 12-hour rampage that ended when he was killed at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.

READ MORE: What we know about the alleged gunman

As reports of the killings began to emerge Sunday, Matthew said he was shocked when he got a call from a family member who asked if he remembered the name Wortman.

“I wish the police would have dealt with him a lot sooner,” Matthew said. “I wish he would’ve lost everything back then. Basically, this might not have happened.”

Nova Scotia RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather said Monday afternoon he could not rule out more victims being found as police were still investigating 16 crime scenes, including several burned houses and murders along roads and highways in rural Nova Scotia, which stretched roughly 100 kilometres.

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“We are relatively confident we’ve identified all the crime scenes, however we haven’t been able to fully examine the crime scenes,” Leather told reporters. “We’ve had five structure fires, most of those being residences. We believe there may be victims among those homes which burned to the ground.”

On Tuesday, the RCMP said there are now 22 victims, including a 17-year-old girl. Police also confirmed that the RCMP uniform the shooter wore on the weekend during the killing was authentic and the cruiser he drove was a “look-alike” RCMP vehicle.

“I want to reassure you that we are working hard to find out as much information as possible in the days and weeks to come,” he said. “We will be in this for months to come.”

READ MORE: There was an active shooter. Why didn’t Nova Scotia send an emergency alert?

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Details are slowly emerging about the shooter’s life that included a string of disputes with police, tenants and even family members, according to interviews and court records.

He was involved in an encounter in February with Halifax Regional Police over an unmarked cop car that was parked in the lot outside his clinic.

Wortman’s uncle filed a case against him in Nova Scotia Supreme Court over a property in Portapique, N.S., after a dispute arose over financing, according to court records.

The uncle claimed he repaid Wortman, but the denturist refused to release the property back to him, claiming unpaid debts, according to court records.

Matthew said he can’t help but wonder if a stiffer sentence might have changed the course of events.

“There should have been more done,” he said. “I remember back then he was never supposed to have any kind of weapons in his possession but I don’t know if that changed over the course of time.”