A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman at 200 Portapique Beach Road is seen in Portapique, N.S. on Friday, May 8, 2020. Newly released documents suggest the gunman behind the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia had planned to "get" a pair of people in Halifax during his murderous rampage, but the Mounties were warned by his common-law spouse while he was on the loose north of the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Gunman behind mass shooting in Nova Scotia had targets in Halifax: search warrants

HALIFAX — Newly released documents suggest the gunman behind the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia had planned to “get” a pair of people in Halifax during his rampage, but the Mounties were warned by his common-law spouse while he was on the loose north of the city.

The partially redacted RCMP search warrant applications, released Wednesday, say Halifax Regional Police officers were dispatched to an unidentified residence where they provided protection to two people.

No other details are provided, but the suggestion that the killer was headed to Halifax falls in line with the route he was taking after he killed 22 people in northern and central Nova Scotia.

On the night of April 18, the killer set fire to several homes and killed 13 people in Portapique, N.S., before evading police later that night while dressed as a Mountie and driving a vehicle that he modified to look exactly like an RCMP cruiser.

The next morning, he resumed killing people he knew and others at random before he was fatally shot by a Mountie at a gas station on a highway just north of Halifax. The killer drove more than 100 kilometres during the 13 hours he was at large.

The documents also provide new details about how a wounded witness told the first officers on the scene in Portapique that he believed the shooter was his neighbour, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman.

The witness, whose name is blacked out, told two officers that he and his wife were in their car when they approached what they thought was an “RCMP car … with an officer in it,” parked in front of a burning home.

“The police vehicle pulled around the driveway and pulled up beside them, so (the witness) rolled down the window to talk to him but before he could say anything (the man who looked like a Mountie) pulled a gun out and started shooting at them,” the document says.

The witness said he ducked when he noticed a laser sight on the handgun, which was pointed at his head.

“He heard two or three bangs and wasn’t even sure if he was shot at the time,” the document says, and the witness noted that one bullet hit him in the shoulder and another grazed the side of his head.

“His wife screamed at him to drive and they pulled away.”

Minutes later, after meeting RCMP officers arriving at the scene, the witness informed officers his first suspicion was that the gunman was Wortman because his barn was on fire and Wortman had a white Ford Taurus that he’d previously referred to as a police car.

“(The witness) said the car (the suspect) was driving is almost identical to the police cars that showed up on the scene.”

The witness also said he noticed that Wortman’s house was on fire, and that “all of sudden there’s this police car that’s not a police car lighting this other house on fire, so it had to be Gabe.”

The man’s observations are significant because they show that the RCMP were made aware of the killer’s disguise and his highly detailed replica vehicle early in their response to the shooting. However, the Mounties did not issue an alert about the vehicle on Twitter until 10:17 a.m. the next day.

Meanwhile, the RCMP also released more details about the weapons used by the killer, confirming he was carrying illegal, over-capacity magazines for the two semi-automatic rifles he had with him.

The Mounties say one of the weapons, a 5.56-calibre Colt Law Enforcement carbine, had been smuggled into Canada from California. The second weapon, a .223-calibre Ruger Mini 14 rifle, had been purchased from a gun shop in Winnipeg, but the documents don’t say who bought the weapon.

Wortman did not have a licence to possess or acquire firearms.

Blake Brown, a Saint Mary’s University history professor and author of “Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun Control in Canada,” said the Ruger and Colt weapons can discharge several rounds of ammunition quickly and accurately.

Brown described the Colt carbine as a variant of the AR-15.

“The AR-15 has been employed by several mass murderers in the United States, and by the Christchurch, New Zealand mass shooter in 2019,” Brown told The Canadian Press.

Since the 1990s, Ottawa has sought to limit the damage that can be caused by such firearms by placing restrictions on the size of their magazines, which are typically limited to holding no more than five rounds, he said.

When the gunman was killed, he had with him three over-capacity magazines for the Colt carbine, which could each hold 30 rounds. As well, there were three magazines with the Ruger rifle, including the original five-round magazine and two over-capacity magazines designed to hold 40 rounds each.

“The Nova Scotia mass shooting shows that larger magazines can be smuggled into Canada, and then used with semi-automatic, assault-style rifles,” Brown said. “This may partly be why the government … has banned many models of assault-style rifles, including the AR-15 and Mini-14.”

Inside the car the gunman had been driving, police also found a .40-calibre semi-automatic Glock 23 pistol with an over-capacity magazine in the gun, and a 9-millimetre semi-automatic Ruger P89 pistol. Both were equipped with laser sights and were smuggled into Canada from Maine, police say.

The gunman also had the 9-mm Smith and Wesson service pistol issued to RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was killed by the shooter as she drove up to his mock cruiser earlier in the day in nearby Shubenacadie, N.S.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Most Read