Tracing the gunman’s path: RCMP searched N.S. shooter’s in-car data, court docs show

Unsealed court document reveals N.S. shooting investigation techniques
WATCH: A month after the mass killing in Nova Scotia, some of RCMP’s investigative avenues were revealed in a newly-unsealed court document. Ashley Field reports.

Police seized a number of computers, cellphones and the in-car data of two vehicles as part of the investigation into the mass shooting in Nova Scotia last month, according to newly unsealed court documents released Monday.

The documents, known as an information to obtain (ITO) a search warrant, suggest RCMP are investigating whether the gunman had travelled the same route prior to the night he killed 22 people, which could indicate how much planning was involved. Police are required to file ITOs when seeking legal authorization to conduct a search of someone’s property.

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The RCMP sought permission to search the in-car entertainment systems of a 2013 Ford Taurus Police Interceptor and a 2015 Mercedes C-300. Both vehicles were owned by the gunman and seized by police at his Halifax denturist clinic and residence on Portland Street.

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“Gabriel Wortman went on a killing spree that covered in excess of 50 kilometres and the navigation track logs could provide information whether (he) travelled this route prior to April 18, 2020,” the ITO said.

The heavily redacted ITOs did not disclose exactly what information the RCMP expected to obtain from these devices — that portion of the documents was redacted — but they did describe, in general terms, what kind of data vehicle entertainment systems can retain.

While the type of stored information varies by manufacturer, model and year, in-car entertainment systems can store text messages, call logs and other data contained on an electronic device, such as a cellphone, when it is synced with the vehicle, according to the RCMP.

Nova Scotia gunman was a ‘psychopath’ about COVID-19 pandemic: court doc
Nova Scotia gunman was a ‘psychopath’ about COVID-19 pandemic: court doc

According to Cpl. Duane Flynn with the RCMP’s technological crime unit, this information can remain stored on an in-car device even after a cellphone is unsynced. This information can then be downloaded by police and used to help investigate possible crimes.

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The gunman had six properties registered in his name — three in Dartmouth, N.S., and three in Portapique, N.S. On April 20, Nova Scotia justice of the peace Kelly Shannon granted a search warrant to search 193 Portland St. in Dartmouth, N.S.

From the warrant, police seized a Toshiba laptop, a Verbatim SD card of 512 MB, a tablet, a Garmin Nuvi GPS, an auctiontec router, a Mercedes vehicle and a Ford Interceptor car.

“On April 21, 2020, Jo-Ann McNamara, a civilian member of the RCMP who with Special I and responsible for liaising with telco companies, made a request to telco companies and was told that (redacted) is a Telus Mobility cellular phone,” the documents said.

“On April, 22, 2020, (redacted) an employee of Telus Communications Inc, told me that (redacted) was a number belonging to Telus and that Telus had possession of the information that I was looking for.”

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Telus Communications was ordered to produce the documents and/or data indicated to Sgt. Angela Hawryluk of the RCMP or to another peace officer acting on her behalf no later than 30 business days from the date of the order.

A sealing order was requested under the grounds that “the investigation into the murders of more than twenty (20) people and the attempted murder of three (3) persons is ongoing and if the information in this ITO were to be disclosed at this point in time, it would compromise the ongoing investigation.”

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The newly unsealed documents also showed the RCMP officers recovered an ammo box and an unidentified number of ammunition rounds at two of the gunman’s burned-out residences in Portapique, N.S., roughly 130 kilometres northwest of Halifax.

Nova Scotia gunman’s ex-neighbour says she tried to stop him earlier
Nova Scotia gunman’s ex-neighbour says she tried to stop him earlier

The items seized from 200 Portapique Beach Rd. include an ammo box containing a burnt $100 bill, a burnt receipt book, a burnt gun barrel and action, a black plastic bag and another ammo box.

Bullet rounds were also found at the gunman’s property at 136 Orchard Beach Dr., and nothing was seized from a property at 287 Portapique Beach Rd.

The documents are the latest to be released as part of the ongoing investigation into the shootings carried out by Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist. Justice Laurel Halfpenny-MacQuarrie unsealed the documents Monday following an application from several media outlets, including Global News.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia gunman was a ‘psychopath’ and ‘paranoid’ about COVID-19 pandemic

“Gabriel Wortman showed a complete disregard for human life as he shot at people sitting in their cars, people walking on the side of the road, and at people in their private homes,” said one document.

“Witness statement were obtained and Gabriel Wortman was described as a man who collected firearms, decommissioned police cars, police uniforms and equipment, was paranoid and had security systems in place at his properties.”

Nova Scotia RCMP are continuing to investigate key questions in the shooting, including a possible motive, whether the gunman had help and how he obtained several of the semi-automatic rifles used in the killings.

A previous ITO released last week described the gunman as abusive, paranoid and a controlling “psychopath,” according to statements given to the RCMP by people who knew him.

Witnesses also said he disliked the police and kept a stockpile of handguns and rifles, some described as military-style, at several residences including a “warehouse” at his  cottage —  a property he set on fire the night of the rampage. He had also been stockpiling ammunition, gasoline and talked to a witness about how to get rid of bodies, according to the previously released documents.

The gunman, who ran denture clinics in Halifax and Darmouth, was dressed in an authentic RCMP uniform and drove a replica of an RCMP cruiser as he carried out a terrifying rampage that lasted 13 hours beginning at his home in Portapique, N.S.

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The gunman was shot and killed by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.

More to come…