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Nova Scotia gunman flagged for suspicious cash transactions before April shooting, docs show

Click to play video 'Son of Nova Scotia shooting victim describes how he learned about his parents deaths' Son of Nova Scotia shooting victim describes how he learned about his parents deaths
WATCH: The Nova Scotia gunman was flagged for purchases made before the shooting that killed 22 people in April, according to newly unsealed court documents – Aug 27, 2020

The gunman who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia in April was flagged for multiple suspicious transactions to Canada’s money laundering watchdog for purchasing items “intended for police use” and a $475,000 cash withdrawal before the 13-hour shooting spree, according to newly unsealed court documents.

The documents also include new details from the gunman’s cousin, a retired RCMP officer, who described the shooter as “almost a career criminal” in an interview with police after the shootings.

The details were included in search warrant applications filed by the RCMP that were released Monday by provincial court Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie.

Read more: Families of Nova Scotia shooting victims say RCMP keeping them in the dark

According to the documents, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) was made aware of suspicious transactions related to Gabriel Wortman’s PayPal account towards “the purchase of vehicle accessories commonly used by police, including items explicitly labeled as being intended for police use via eBay.”

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PayPal flagged suspicious transactions between March 22 and Dec. 5, 2019, the documents said, although it’s unclear if that’s when they were reported to FINTRAC or when the purchases occurred.

The list of vehicle accessories purchased by the gunman included:

  • A centre console for a 2013 Ford Taurus.
  • A Setina PI interceptor Taurus sedan police push bumper ram bar.
  • Siren lights.
  • An in-car recordable vehicle dashcam and wireless mic bundle.
  • A “subdued Canadian flag thin blue line sticker vinyl decal.”
  • Hubcaps.
  • A gun rack.

The newly released documents indicate the suspicious transaction reports (STRs) were prepared by FINTRAC on April 22 and April 30 after the shootings occurred. It’s unclear when FINTRAC was first made aware of these transactions.

Click to play video 'Nova Scotia gunman flagged for suspicious cash transactions before April shooting: documents' Nova Scotia gunman flagged for suspicious cash transactions before April shooting: documents
Nova Scotia gunman flagged for suspicious cash transactions before April shooting: documents – Sep 21, 2020

Under Canadian law, financial institutions and other organizations are required to create STRs for transactions like large cash deposits, unsourced deposits or multiple deposits totalling more than $10,000.

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“The FINTRAC report also outlined STRs with respect to credit cards associated with (the gunman) for purchases to GCSurplus Ottawa of more than $15,000,” the documents said. “It is known that some of these purchases were for white Ford Taurus vehicles which were decommissioned police cars.”

According to the documents, investigators said CIBC reported that in March the gunman had requested to “liquidate some of his investments, amounting to $475,000.”

“(The gunman) requested that the $475,000 be in $100 denominations,” the documents said, adding that the money was delivered to the gunman via a Brinks deposit on March 30.

A spokesperson for CIBC said their thoughts are with the victims of the tragedy but declined to answer questions about the suspicious transaction reports, adding that the bank cannot release information about individual clients.

FINTRAC, meanwhile, said it is “prohibited from disclosing information that it may have received or financial intelligence that it may have disclosed to police, law enforcement or national security agencies” relevant to a criminal investigation.

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A consortium of media organizations – including Global News — have been fighting for months to have the 23 RCMP search warrant applications released and the redactions lifted.

The six newly released search warrant applications are still heavily redacted, but include what appear to be more terrifying details from the gunman’s common-law spouse, where she describes him as being “caught-up” with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and “preparing for the end of the world.”

Other revelations related to the rampage on April 18 and 19 that killed 22 people, including an RCMP officer, are a chilling firsthand account from RCMP Const. Chad Morrison, who was shot by the gunman, and details related to an argument between the shooter and one of the victims in the community of Portapique.

An unidentified friend of Aaron Tuck, who was killed along with his wife and teenage daughter, told police that he witnessed an argument between the gunman and Tuck prior to the shooting. 

“Aaron Tuck wanted to sell his house in Portapique and move back to Cape Breton and wanted $48,000 to $58,000 for it,” the documents said. “(Redacted) saw Aaron Tuck get into an argument with (the gunman) as (the gunman) had offered Aaron $18,000 for the house.”

Read more: Body of Nova Scotia shooting victim allegedly transported by tow truck

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He also told police that by the end of August 2019 “you could not tell the difference between (the gunman’s) RCMP police car and a real one.”

Morrison, who was wounded by the gunman, told investigators he was waiting in his police cruiser for Const. Heidi Stevenson at the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 224 in Shubenacadie, in central Nova Scotia.

“Morrison said that he was listening to the radio and found it confusing to understand where the suspect was but thought the suspect was in the Brookfield area and was not expecting the suspect to be coming his way at that time,” the documents said.

He told investigators he noted a Taurus that was coming in his direction but was unsure if it was the suspect. He told police a “push bar” mounted on the front of the vehicle gave him pause but relaxed as Stevenson was nearby.

“As the marked police car approached … Morrison realized that was not Cst. Stevenson and he recognized the driver to be the suspect from the picture (of the gunman) that he had received to be on the lookout for,” the documents said. “Morrison said the suspect looked to have a melancholy expression as he was turning in front of him and then he had a ‘grit’ look on his face as he started to raise his gun.”

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“Morrison said the suspect brandished a handgun out the window and began firing at him,” the documents said, noting that three or four shots were fired in a “split second.”

The RCMP constable hit an emergency response button and called for help to say that he had been shot and drove to an EHS station in Milford, where he could still see the section of Highway where the gunman had opened fire and black SUVs with police lights heading towards the scene where he believed Stevenson had been shot.

“Morrison heard (a police officer) say on the radio that ‘Stevenson is down,” the documents said. Morrison was transferred to Colchester Hospital.

“I believe that the hard body armour worn by Cst. Morrison stopped the bullet from entering his chest/abdomen,” said an unidentified person in the documents.

The document also offer new evidence on help Wortman received in creating the replica RCMP cruiser he used in the killings.

Peter Griffon told police how he’d made and printed off the RCMP decals for Wortman’s car -without his employer knowing – and used a computer at the back of the shop to research RCMP emblems, according to the documents.

READ MORE: Fake RCMP decals made months before Nova Scotia shooting

Griffon was convicted of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in 2017 and had ties to a Mexican cartel. He had been on parole, and living with his parents in Portapique, N.S., doing odd jobs for Wortman, when he completed the decal work, including making the numbers “28B11” of the decommissioned police car.

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“(Griffon) should not be messing around with stuff like that,” the owner of the graphics company is quoted in the documents as saying.

On the day the shooting, the 40-year-old man had finished work on Wortman’s property and left around 5 p.m. where he had a short chat with one of the victims who lived near the gunman’s home

He was watching television that night when he got a call from his mother who said the gunman’s home was on fire. Griffon’s father called 911 and as they were being escorted out the area they saw some of the victims’ homes on fire.

A National Parole Board decision obtained by Global News says Griffon had his parole revoked due to his actions in the Nova Scotia tragedy, including that he lied to police.

Police had originally interviewed Griffon about the shooting spree in April and he told his parole officer that he didn’t know anything that would be relevant and denied making the decals, according to the parole board decision.

“You would later advise your parole officer that you had misled police and lied outright to your parole officer when first contacted and queried about knowledge of the shooting suspect,” the board wrote. “The consequences of your most recent flawed decision-making contributed to a horrific end that touched every life in your province. Those decisions are inconsistent with being on parole.”

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