The preliminary findings of a psychological autopsy of the gunman who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia in April described him as someone who held onto perceived slights or injustices.
RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell said the initial findings from behavioural analysts described the gunman as an “Injustice Collector” who held onto disputes and conflicts “turning them inward until they boiled over in rage.”
“These are individuals who may have felt slighted or cheated at any point in their lives. It may be real or may be perceived.”
“Some recipients of his wrath of violence were targeted for perceived injustices of the past, others were reactive targets of his rage and others were random targets,” Campbell said Thursday during a press conference, the first update from RCMP on their investigation into the mass killing in more than a month.
Campbell said the investigation into the mass killings on April 18 and 19 is ongoing and more than 650 individuals from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the United States have now been interviewed.
“We may never uncover all of the details or fully understand why the gunman did what he did,” he said. “The investigation is committed to providing answers to the victims, the surviving family members, the public, and to hold anyone who played a role accountable in these horrible crimes.”
Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist, was dressed like an RCMP officer and was driving a replica RCMP vehicle during part of the rampage. However, Campbell said the shooter did not use the replica vehicle to pull over any of his victims when they were killed.
Michael Arntfield, a criminologist and professor at the University of Western Ontario, said so-called injustice collectors are typically middle to later aged men who obsessively accumulate perceived grievances that can erupt in acts of extreme violence.
“They often develop a list of people who have wronged them and led to their current circumstances,” he said.
Arntfield said an infamous example of these injustice or grievance collectors is Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer who killed four people in 2013. Some of the victims were police officers or family members of LAPD.
“The term also refers in many cases to disgruntled employees … where they come back and target coworkers or employers,” he said.
Interviews and court documents involving the gunman show a long list of disputes with various individuals, including family members.
Gunman acquired all firearms ‘illegally’
The RCMP said the gunman obtained all of his firearms used in the shootings “illegally” and that only one of the guns was mentioned in a 2011 police bulletin about him.
Campbell said police know who provided weapons to the gunman, but wouldn’t reveal any further details citing the ongoing investigation.
Campbell confirmed the fifth weapon was Cst. Heidi Stevenson’s, who was killed after “bravely” engaging the shooter.
“We do not believe that Cst. Stevenson rammed the gunman’s vehicle,” Campbell said adding the gunman’s vehicle sustained more damage than the RCMP officer’s.
“She bravely engaged the gunman, and there was an exchange of gunfire between Cst. Stevenson and the gunman,” he said. “Cst. Stevenson and Cst. Morrison, who had been shot earlier in the morning by the gunman, were both wearing soft and hard body armour.”
Previous red flags
The RCMP also addressed allegations from neighbours of the gunman who said they reported incidents of domestic violence and firearms complaints to the Mounties but claimed they were ignored.
Brenda Forbes told Global news she was so terrified of Wortman that she sold her Portapique, N.S., home and moved away in 2014.
Forbes said she warned the RCMP the gunman beat his girlfriend and kept a cache of weapons in his home.
Police have said the gunman beat and bound his common-law-girlfriend before killing 13 of his neighbours in Portapique, a community of about 100 people 40 kilometres west of Truro, N.S
The woman escaped and hid in the woods and would provide crucial information to police in the early hours of April 19, including that the gunman was dressed as an RCMP officer and driving a mock cruiser.
“Witnesses have since come forward and expressed that they notified the RCMP regarding intimate partner violence claims and firearms complaints against the gunman,” Campbell said. “This component of the investigation remains active.”
Police also addressed a police bulletin from 2011 that warned police agencies across Nova Scotia that a denturist named Gabriel Wortman had a stash of guns and wanted “to kill a cop.”
“I can confirm that all but one of the firearms found in the gunman’s possession were acquired after 2011 and thus are not those described in the officer safety bulletin,” he said, noting it was not available to responding officers on April 19.
“Generally, officer safety bulletins are purged from searchable police databases after two years,” he said.
Investigators are still working to determine how the gunman obtained the RCMP uniform used in the killings.
Campbell said although there was a “familial association” between the gunman and two retired RCMP members, investigators don’t believe they supplied him with old uniforms and noted they were estranged.
“The gunman had been associated to a police officer from another Nova Scotia police agency. This officer has also cooperated with the investigation and we also believe that the officer was not responsible for providing any uniform items to the gunman,” Campbell said.
He noted the gunman was never associated with the RCMP as a volunteer or as an auxiliary police officer “nor did the RCMP ever have any special relationship with the gunman of any kind.”
Search warrant documents unsealed last month showed that a 2013 Ford Taurus owned by the gunman was registered to a company called Berkshire Broman Corporation.
Campbell said that registering the vehicles under a corporate name made it “difficult” to determine which vehicles the gunman had registered.
“Whether he did that by design or if there was a benefit for him, that is a question likely only the gunman can answer,” he said.
The terrifying rampage, which lasted more than 13 hours, ended when the gunman was shot by a Mountie at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 90 kilometres south of Portapique on the morning of April 19.