A bulletin distributed to police agencies across Nova Scotia in 2011 warned that the man who would later commit one of Canada’s largest mass shootings was in possession of a large stash of weapons and intended to “kill a cop.”
It’s the latest in a series of incidents that occurred years before the April shooting indicating Gabriel Wortman was dangerous, including acts of domestic violence.
But the RCMP aren’t able to share what, if anything, was done with the tip against Wortman, who killed 22 people, including an RCMP officer, in rural Nova Scotia last month.
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, a spokesperson for the RCMP, told Global News on Monday that the bulletin — a type of document that Clarke says is received by police departments every day — would have been purged from their systems approximately two years after it was received.
“I don’t know what we did or didn’t do with that,” Clarke said.
“What we’re doing is following up on what actions were taken as a result. So I may be able to provide more on that in the future, but I don’t know right now.”
The 2011 tip
The police bulletin, released under a freedom of information request to CBC Nova Scotia, was prepared in 2011 after Cpl. Greg Densmore of the Truro Police Service received a tip from an unnamed source.
The bulletin is heavily redacted and does not include names, although Truro police chief David MacNeil confirmed to Global News on Friday that Wortman was the subject of the report.
Densmore wrote in the bulletin that his source indicated Wortman was upset about how police had investigated a break-in.
Densmore was told that Wortman had at least one handgun, which he may have been transporting between his home in Dartmouth and cottage in Portapique, and “several long rifles” located at his cottage.
The document indicates the source believed Wortman was having some “mental issues” that were making him “a little squirrelly.”
It was not the first time that Wortman was referred to the police.
He was reportedly investigated for uttering death threats to his parents on June 2, 2010, according to the bulletin.
A spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Police said the department investigated that incident but there wasn’t enough evidence to lay charges or get search warrants.
MacNeil told Global News that Densmore took the report seriously and it was distributed to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Nova Scotia, a network of police agencies that share information.
“Neither address on the bulletin was in our jurisdiction,” said MacNeil, “so there was no follow up required by Truro police.”
But the division of police forces may have caused some confusion among the agencies that were responsible for investigating the report.
What happened next
Wortman’s cottage in Portapique would be the responsibility of the local RCMP detachment, but his primary residence in Dartmouth would’ve fallen to the Halifax Regional Police.
Halifax police said any information about weapons they found was related to his cottage and referred their findings to the RCMP.
Clarke said that she can’t say what the force did or did not do regarding the bulletin as the records have been purged from their system.
Officer’s good memory prompts the document’s discovery
The bulletin only came to light after the killing spree on April 19.
A member of the Amherst Police Service believed that the shooter’s name sounded familiar and looked through his emails.
“He’s got a pretty good memory,” said Amherst Police Chief Dwayne Pike.
The unnamed officer found the bulletin and forwarded it to his supervisor, who then forwarded it to colleagues in the RCMP.
Pike said that there would have been no reason for his department to investigate the incident as they wouldn’t have had jurisdiction.
MacNeil said their officers recovered the bulletin about a week later, once it was brought to their attention.
Clarke said the force didn’t know about the bulletin until it was flagged to them by a fellow police agency.
When asked why the bulletin wasn’t disclosed to the public earlier Clarke told Global News that any homicide investigation is a large undertaking and that this case in particular — with 22 deaths spread out across multiple crime scenes — is particularly challenging.
“The public, we absolutely understand people want to know. People want a reason why this happened,” she said. “I expect that would be coming — I can’t say when, but that’s what we’re trying to understand, as well as why it happened and how it happened.”