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

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

The witness said he ducked when he noticed a laser sight on the handgun

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.

Michael MacDonald and Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

crimeRCMP

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

Just Posted

Victoria police are asking for help locating Izabel Villeneuve, 14, who was last seen Jan. 19. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating missing 14-year-old

Izabel Villeneuve was last seen in the morning of Jan. 19

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us – maybe

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Vancouver Island this weekend

Snow on Malahat to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Most Read