OHS Canada Magazine

Probe into mass killing in Nova Scotia continues as province grapples with violence 

UPDATED: Death toll now at 23


RCMP officer Const. Heidi Stevenson was one of 23 killed in Nova Scotia in mid-April. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia/Facebook)

The RCMP says a weekend shooting rampage in Nova Scotia has now claimed the lives of 23 victims.

Investigators are continuing to piece together one of Canada’s deadliest mass killings, which saw a man who at one point donned a police uniform slay people as he travelled across northern Nova Scotia over the weekend.

An RCMP officer, Const. Heidi Stevenson, is counted among the dead.

Also killed was Debert Elementary school teacher Lisa McCully. Nova Scotia Teachers Union President President Paul Wozney identified McCully as one of the dead in a Facebook post.

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“9300 NSTU hearts are broken along with those of her colleagues and students at Debert Elementary, as well as her family and friends who knew her not only as a passionate teacher but as a shining love in their lives,” he wrote.

Investigators have said the alleged shooter, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, was also killed after police intercepted him at a gas station in Enfield, N.S. His death is now being investigated by a police watchdog.

Hours-long manhunt

Meanwhile, RCMP are probing exactly how the rampage unfolded.

They say they were initially called to reports of a man with firearms in the small community of Portapique, N.S., on Saturday night.

There, officers found numerous people dead or wounded, both inside and outside a property. But Chief Insp. Chris Leather said that by the time police arrived, the shooter was gone.

An hours-long manhunt and eventual police chase ensued across a swath of the Maritime province, with officers providing periodic updates about the suspect’s whereabouts.

Leather said the killings appeared to be, “at least in part, very random in nature.”

Premier Stephen McNeil described the massacre as “one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history.”

“I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia,” McNeil said in Halifax on Sunday.

In a series of tweets, he added that all Nova Scotians would be affected by the tragedy.

“It’s okay to feel sad, or angry, or hopeless,” he wrote. “But what’s not okay is to bear all of those feelings alone. Reach out to a loved one, a friend, a neighbour. And if you need more support, that’s okay, too. The provincial crisis line is available 24/7: 1-888-429-8167.”

Death toll rising

The death toll from a killing rampage in Nova Scotia could rise.

Nineteen people were confirmed dead as of yesterday following Sunday’s tragedy, but police expect the number of victims to go up.

Police say the 16 crime scenes include five burned buildings where it is feared additional bodies will be found inside.

RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather said he expects the number of victims to increase in the days ahead.

The murder and arson rampage finally ended when active shooter Gabriel Wortman was shot dead Sunday by RCMP officers in Enfield, N.S., next to the gas pumps at a service station.

The RCMP opted to use its Twitter account to provide updates during the active shooter investigation.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the province’s emergency alert system wasn’t used because no request was received.

Meanwhile, messages of sympathy and support continued to pour in for those who lost loved ones in the deadly spree.

Queen Elizabeth issued a statement this morning saying she and Prince Philip were “deeply saddened” by the “appalling” events, and sending condolences to those affected.

This story has been updated.