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Evacuation centre peppered with bullets morning of Nova Scotia mass shooting

Fire hall in Onslow peppered with bullets
WATCH: While the gunman was moving through Nova Scotia on Sunday morning, the fire hall in Onslow was peppered with bullets. As Jesse Thomas reports, the shooters were RCMP officers.

Nova Scotia’s police watchdog is investigating why two uniformed officers were shooting in the direction of a fire hall in Onslow being used as a place of refuge the morning of the shooting rampage.

In a statement to Global News, Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) interim director Pat Curran said the team is investigating the discharge of firearms by two RCMP officers near the Onslow-Belmont Fire Hall about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

“At this point we don’t what they were shooting at,” Curran said. “We do know that the shooter was not in that area at that time.”

The Onslow Belmont Fire Hall is located about 25 kilometres east of Portapique, N.S., where a gunman began his deadly rampage that spanned over 12 hours and killed at least 22 people this past weekend.

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

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In a Facebook post Wednesday morning, the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade confirmed its building sustained “considerable damage” as a result of the situation.

Bullet holes are seen at the Onslow Belmont Fire Hall on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Bullet holes are seen at the Onslow Belmont Fire Hall on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Jesse Thomas/Global News
It is unclear why the RCMP members were shooting at the fire hall.
It is unclear why the RCMP members were shooting at the fire hall. Jesse Thomas/Global News

It also took one of the fire station’s trucks out of service.

“The hall was used to provide a place where residents could come take a break, register and get hotel and Red Cross information,” the fire brigade said in the post.

The brigade said there was an RCMP officer and cruiser staged on its property to assist with evacuation registration.

They said multiple people were at the fire hall when the shots rang out.

“Our video surveillance does not capture the shooters but does show two people resembling RCMP officers enter our property, one to the front and one to the rear,” the Facebook post said.

“One of these people enters our hall at the front but no one sheltered inside the hall spoke with the people, person resembling the RCMP officer so we cannot confirm why they were there.”

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

The statement, which has since been deleted, added that no one identified themselves as RCMP officers.

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“They left our property shortly after the gunfire,” the post concluded. “We have since been contacted by SiRT and are cooperating with their ongoing investigation.

“Fortunately, no one was physically injured.”

The Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade says it deleted the post because it “never intended to instigate conspiracy theories or confirm anything about a shooter still at large.”

“The comments posted on our site were not where we had hoped the discussions would go so we have removed the post,” the second post reads.

“Taking down our post does not diminish or erase the events on Sunday and we know everyone is looking for answers so we encourage people to refer to RCMP and/or SIRT news releases and briefings to get factual updates.”

‘I was shaken up’

Vi O’Riley, who lives down the road from the fire hall, says she heard a loud bang Sunday morning.

“I went into the living room to look out the window and there was two policemen running across the street with some big guns,” she said. “One went toward the fire hall and one sort of sat in the ditch.”

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O’Riley says they left a short time later. She says the disturbing part was that she didn’t receive any sort of alert as to what was happening.

“If there was someone out here shooting, we weren’t told. There was no alarm, which they usually have one,” she said.

“I was shaken up.”

During the manhunt for the shooter, Nova Scotia RCMP were providing updates on the search through their Twitter account. An emergency alert was not sent out to residents.

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

Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday that the province was notified of the situation at around midnight Sunday. He said the province had its Emergency Management Office staff on hand but did not receive a request from the RCMP to issue an alert.

The SiRT investigation into the two RCMP officers allegedly discharging their firearms is separate from their other investigation, which involves the killing of the suspect outside a gas station in Enfield.

With files from Jesse Thomas.