Nova Scotia shooting: RCMP and courts still keeping some details hidden from the public

Nova Scotia gunman’s ex-neighbour says she tried to stop him earlier
WATCH: Nova Scotia gunman's ex-neighbour says she tried to stop him earlier.

Police documents related to search warrants in the Nova Scotia mass shooting investigation are being released with heavy redactions from Crown prosecutors working alongside the RCMP.

Several documents, known as information to obtain (ITO) a search warrant, have been unsealed by a judge and offer a window into the ongoing investigation after a gunman killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia last month.

The ITOs for search warrants, police reports to judges detailing the results of their searches and production orders outline evidence police believe is relevant to the investigation.

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

There are at least 20 documents from the police investigation that several media organizations, including Global News, are fighting to have unsealed to ensure transparency amid growing calls for a public inquiry into the mass killings.

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While some of the redactions are important to protect the identities of witnesses, there are nearly whole pages that are blacked out.

Here is a look at some of the key sections that investigators are refusing to make public:

How were the weapons obtained?

One of the most heavily redacted sections of the ITOs describes the weapons found in the vehicle Gabriel Wortman was operating just prior to being shot and killed by police at the Irving Big Stop gas station in Enfield, N.S.

According to the documents, five weapons were retrieved from the vehicle. This included a semi-automatic rifle with the selector switch set to “fire,” another semi-automatic rifle, a handgun with spent shell casings, a second handgun with an empty magazine and a Smith & Wesson handgun that belonged to RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, who Wortman killed roughly an hour before being shot by police.

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The ITOs contain information relating to the source of these firearms, but all of these details have been redacted.

“Sgt. Peyton was able to source this firearm (redacted) Gabriel Wortman as he did not possess a firearms license and has never had a firearms license” is how the ITO described the possible origin of one of the rifles Wortman used in the attacks.

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The possible source of the other weapons, excluding Stevenson’s handgun, was also redacted, along with the calibre, make and model of each firearm.

The ITO also said Larry Peyton, an RCMP officer who conducted an examination of the weapons found in the last vehicle driven by Wortman, discovered a business card while conducting a search warrant at the gunman’s Halifax residence and denturist clinic a day after the shooting. The details of who the business card belonged to and what line of work the person is involved in are redacted entirely.

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The RCMP has previously said one of the firearms Wortman used in the attacks was obtained in Canada, while the other weapons appear to have been obtained in the United States. Police have provided no additional details on the make and model of the weapons used.

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“In terms of the origins of the weapons, who may have provided those weapons, how he obtained them, that’s all subject to the ongoing investigation,” RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell said during an April press conference.

Eyewitness account

The ITOs also include a heavily redacted eyewitness account of the before and after the murder of Stevenson and Joseph Webber, a bystander who police believe stopped to help when he saw what appeared to be two police vehicles involved in a crash.

According to the witness statement, Wortman, whom the witness described as a bald man in a police shirt and reflective vest, was firing at an RCMP officer. The witness said the gunfire sounded like “popping” and he believed it was from a handgun but wasn’t certain.

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“The bald headed guy with a green fluorescent vest was going back and forth doing the shooting,” the witness reportedly said.

“The first thing (redacted) thought of was the siding was coming loose. Then (redacted) realized it was gunfire.”

Multiple witnesses to Nova Scotia shooter’s violent past
Multiple witnesses to Nova Scotia shooter’s violent past

But what appears to be the witness’s description of what happened between the time Webber arrived at the scene and when Wortman lit his and Stevenson’s vehicles on fire is entirely redacted, other than to say it looked like Webber had gotten out of his vehicle to help.

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After Wortman killed Stevenson and Webber, he gathered things from Stevenson’s vehicle and his and then loaded them into Webber’s SUV, according to the witness account. He then lit the two police cars on fire using something he obtained from the back of his car.

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“The bald man opened up the trunk of the car had (sic) been driving and a couple of seconds later you could see smoke coming from the trunk,” the ITO said.

“(Redacted) said that the bald man must have had a gas can or something set up in the trunk because it was only 10 seconds from when he flipped the trunk open that fire started.”

Majority of common-law wife’s statement

The gunman’s 13-hour rampage began after he assaulted and tied up his common-law wife, who ultimately escaped and hid in the woods overnight in Portapique.

She told investigators the gunman “didn’t like police officers and thought he was better than them.”

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She told police they were having drinks that Saturday night and talking to friends on FaceTime before an argument ensued, according to the document.

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The woman also said the gunman owned several “military-style” guns and told police she saw him pour gasoline throughout the cottage and adjacent warehouse, as well as on his Ford-150 truck, a black Jeep and a Ford Taurus.

However, at least eight paragraphs are completely or mostly redacted in the document and omit important details about the moments leading up to the massacre.

What data is stored on gunman’s cars?

On Monday, newly unsealed documents showed RCMP investigators 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.

“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.

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The heavily redacted ITOs did not disclose what specific information the RCMP expected to obtain from these devices, and several large paragraphs were blacked out entirely.

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.

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