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His neighbours were the first to die.
In rural Portapique, N.S., Gabriel Wortman shot 13 people dead and wounded two others, firing at them on the roads and in their homes, and setting buildings on fire.
For the next 13 hours, he left a trail of bodies across Nova Scotia until police spotted him refuelling a stolen car at the Big Stop gas station in the town of Enfield and killed him.
A detailed timeline released by the RCMP on Friday revealed the horrific scope of the killing spree that began on Saturday night and continued Sunday morning.
“To call this a tragedy would be an understatement,” RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell told reporters before disclosing what investigators had pieced together since Canada’s worst mass shooting.
A denturist who collected police vehicles and memorabilia, Wortman had a history of friction with others, and he knew a good many of those he murdered, giving his violence the appearance of score-settling.
“We have interviewed several individuals or associates, people that had come in contact with the gunman, not during this incident but in the past,” Campbell said.
“And there seems to be a trail of individuals who had had problems with Mr. Wortman.”
But other victims were random — a woman walking her dog at the side of the road, a man who tried to intervene when a Mountie was shot, and a driver pulled over and executed.
According to the new details released by police, it all began with an assault on his former partner. Global News reported Thursday that he tied her up in his cottage after they quarrelled at a party.
He then appears to have set fire to the place and, armed with handguns and shotguns, set off in a car he had made up to look like an RCMP cruiser, complete with decals and a light bar.
His killing was methodical. He went from home to home in Portapique, where he owned three properties, shooting his closest neighbours and setting fire to their houses.
Responding to a 911 call, police arrived in Portapique at around 10:30 p.m. and came across a man who had been shot. Wortman had opened fire on him from what the victim thought was a police vehicle.
Police flooded into the neighbourhood, finding bodies on the roads and in the houses. While they evacuated residents, they cordoned off an area totalling four square kilometres.
Dogs were brought in, and a helicopter.
Wortman was considered a suspect. Police knew he collected police vehicles. But his home was ablaze, along with two former police cruisers he owned. Whether he was on the run or inside his burning home was unclear.
Early Sunday morning, Wortman’s former partner called 911. She had escaped Wortman’s cottage and hid overnight in the woods. She confirmed he was wearing a police uniform, had a mock police cruiser and was armed with several firearms.
But Wortman was long gone, and police now believe he likely escaped by driving across a field. How he spent the night remains unclear, but he evaded police and resumed killing at 9:35 a.m.
Police denied reports Wortman had a hit list. But he did appear to have thought about who he wanted to kill. He went first to the home of two acquaintances and murdered all three residents before setting fire to the home.
His next stop was a nearby residence in the Glenholme area where another acquaintance lived. Wortman knocked on the door, but the occupants did not answer. Once he left, they phoned police.
“It’s very likely that maybe they were also people that he might have had an issue with,” Campbell said.
Still in his fake police cruiser, he continued south to the Wentworth area, coldly shooting a woman he came across on the road walking her dog. Then, apparently posing as a police officer, he pulled over a car and shot the driver.
“He continued driving down that same road, Highway 4, and he encountered a second vehicle and he shot and killed that victim at that location,” Campbell explained.
In Enfield, RCMP Const. Chad Morrison was in his cruiser when he saw what he thought was another police car approaching. He assumed it was Const. Heidi Stevenson, whom he had arranged to meet.
But it was Wortman.
“The gunman pulled up alongside Const. Morrison and immediately opened fire,” Campbell said. Morrison was shot several times but managed to get away and alert police.
Stevenson, meanwhile, was driving north on Highway 2 when Wortman rammed her vehicle head-on. She engaged the killer but he shot her dead, along with a passerby who had stopped.
Wortman set Stevenson’s vehicle and his own on fire, and left in the SUV of the man he had just killed. He also took Stevenson’s sidearm and ammunition and drove to the home of a woman he knew.
He shot her dead, then took off his police uniform and fled in her red Mazda 3. But the car’s gas tank must have been empty because he pulled into the Big Stop gas station in Enfield.
By chance, a police tactical team member pulled in to refuel and Wortman was shot dead at 11:26 a.m., bringing an end to an inexplicable burst of violence that left 22 dead and three wounded at 16 locations.