Death toll from Nova Scotia gunman’s rampage climbs to 19

RCMP confirmed Monday that at least 19 people are dead after a lone gunman’s rampage, leaving families and communities across Nova Scotia devastated.

Chief Supt. Chris Leather said at a news briefing Monday afternoon that some but not all of the victims were known to the gunman.

Leather said officers are currently at 16 crime scenes spread across Portapique, N.S., and other nearby communities.

Leather said there were five structure fires and so far they have been unable to fully examine these crime scenes, as most of them are residences and there may be victims still within the remains of those homes which burned to the ground.

He also said that he expects the number of people killed to rise as they investigate these scenes further.

Leather said on Monday that police have put in two additional referrals to the province’s Serious Incident Response Team, which investigated police-involved fatalities. Leather said he could not provide further details, other than to say it involved the “use of force issue.”

Later in the day, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said these incidents did not involve bystanders.

“No innocent civilians have been harmed in these use-of-force incidents,” she said on Monday.

Lucki also said the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, 51, was not well known to police.

She said until they know exactly the cause of each death, she will not comment on the type of weapon the man was in possession of and would not say whether he had a firearms licence.

WATCH | Nova Scotia RCMP give an update on the rampage:

Chief Supt. Chris Leather says RCMP are not yet certain how many people were killed because there may still be victims in burnt-out homes. 4:37

Gunman had police uniform, fake cruiser

At one point during bloody 12-hour rampage, the suspected shooter even wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up of a police cruiser.

Leather said the gunman’s ability to move around the province undetected was “greatly benefitted” by the fact he had a car made to resemble an RCMP vehicle. But Leather said that vehicle was not a real police cruiser.

He also said that the mock police car was discovered at the crime scene that involved the killing of RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, and it was one of the two vehicles fully engulfed in flames.

As for the uniform, Leather said it was still unclear whether it was a very good duplicate or the real thing.

WATCH | Eyewitness describes seeing shooter:

Darcy Sack, a Shubenacadie, N.S., resident, said she and her friend came across two burning police vehicles and the silver suspect vehicle while out driving on Sunday morning near Highway 102 1:34

Officer who was shot out of hospital

Leather said an RCMP officer who was injured, Cst. Chad Morrison, is now recovering at home from gunshot wounds.

“This is obviously good news and we will be there to provide support,” he said.

Leather said they have set up a condolences page for Const. Stevenson, who was killed Sunday.

Const. Heidi Stevenson is seen in a photo posted to the Nova Scotia RCMP’s Twitter account. Police confirmed on Sunday that Stevenson was killed during a gunman’s rampage that claimed at least 10 lives. (Nova Scotia RCMP/Twitter)

“We have lost one of our own while she was protecting others. This is the definition of a true hero,” he said.

In the coming days, Leather said they will provide the public with a timeline with specific locations. He said there are no additional suspects and police do not believe there is any other threat.

‘You can’t believe it’s still happening’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences to the loved ones of the victims on Monday afternoon. 

“Such a tragedy should never have occurred,” Trudeau said. “We stand with you, and we grieve with you, and you can count on our government’s full support during this incredibly painful time.”

On Monday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the province is reeling.

“We can’t explain what happened,” said McNeil. “Every time you hear of another phase to this story you can’t believe it’s still happening.” 

McNeil said he’s heartbroken and that it’s difficult to grasp “the depth and breadth of the pain and suffering.” He called on all Nova Scotians to express their love and support to the families of the victims, and to one another.

“The innocence of the province cannot be let go of. We cannot allow a tragedy as deep and as painful and as hard as [this] determine what our communities are going to be like.”

WATCH | Premier reacts to mass shooting that left at least 19 dead:

‘We’re not going to let someone define us by this tragedy,’ says Stephen McNeil. ‘We will wrap our arms around these families.’ 8:21

‘A sense of presence and comfort’

Steve Adams is the lead pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Great Village, N.S., about ten kilometres east of Portapique, N.S., where the first reports of an active shooter were reported.

Adams said he’s in shock at the losses to his community.

“I know that the families that have been devastated by this are multiple and my heart goes out to them,” he said. 

Adams is struggling to figure out how to help his community mourn without being able to physically come together because of COVID-19. Public health orders make it difficult to provide “a sense of presence and comfort,” he said.

“I am thankful for social media, even the technology we are using today is helpful, but it’s not quite the same.”

Adams said the community is starting to plan a virtual vigil to take place later this week.

The condolence message that Brown put up in Portapique. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Signs of support

In Portapique, a sign of condolence was posted Sunday on a telephone pole by Dave Brown, who lives in the community.

Between images of two broken hearts was the message: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the community.” 

“It’s still unbelievable,” said Brown. “When stuff like this happens, we’ve got to rally together as people with loved ones in the community and just show everybody bad things happen, but we’re still good people here.”

WATCH | Nova Scotia RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing about the rampage:

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki talks to Ian Hanomansing about what’s known about the shooting rampage in rural Nova Scotia that killed 16 people and why it may have occurred. 3:09