In the absence of information, Nick Beaton says a sense of unease is percolating in his community.
Towns across central and northern Nova Scotia have been shattered by an unprecedented spree of violence that claimed the lives of 22 victims, including his pregnant wife, Kristen Beaton.
The grieving widower is haunted by questions about how the killer evaded capture by disguising himself as an RCMP officer during his murderous rampage from late Saturday night to Sunday morning.
But he said the Mounties haven’t been forthcoming with answers.
“We just need some transparency,” he said in an interview. “(Police) aren’t trusting anyone right now, because they’re still shaken, and so are we.”
On Sunday morning, Beaton said, he and his wife lay in bed and scrolled through Facebook posts about a shooter in Portapique, about a half hour’s drive from their Belmont home.
They assumed that the threat had passed.
But after his wife, a continuing care assistant, drove off to see a client, Beaton learned more on social media and called to warn her that the perpetrator was still in the area. He sent her the suspect’s photo, but she never saw the text message, he said.
Minutes after he got off the phone, he said, 33-year-old Kristen Beaton and her Victorian Order of Nurses co-worker Heather O’Brien were dead. Beaton said it took him more than six hours and multiple 911 calls to confirm that the mother of his nearly two-year-old son wasn’t coming home.
In the days since, he says he’s been forced to conduct his own investigation into what happened. While he respects that a police probe is underway, he doesn’t understand why the RCMP haven’t supplied basic details, such as where his wife was murdered.
He also wants to know why the RCMP relied on Twitter to relay critical public safety information when they had an emergency alert system at their disposal.
“If they had put out an alert the night before, my wife would still be alive,” Beaton said by phone Thursday, choking back emotion. “We would have had breakfast together this morning.”
The RCMP and the province have had to answer questions this week about why a warning wasn’t pushed to Nova Scotians’ cellphones and televisions when it was clear a murderer was on the loose.
Premier Stephen McNeil has said emergency officials couldn’t act until the RCMP had prepared an approved alert. The Mounties said Wednesday they were crafting a message when the gunman was fatally shot by police in Enfield, N.S., just before noon on Sunday.
RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather has suggested that crossed wires with provincial officials and within the chain of command were to blame for the delay.
Beaton appreciates that officers are human and prone to making mistakes, particularly in the heat of a manhunt for a suspect dressed as one of their own. But he said the RCMP’s lack of transparency about their investigation has done little to restore the trust in police that the killer exploited to commit mass murder.
“He wants us scared of officers. He wants to rattle the nation,” Nick Beaton said of the gunman, adding that many fearful locals now keep weapons at their sides. “Everyone’s scared to death, and there’s going to be situations that come with that.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2020.