Gunman in N.S. shooting used gasoline while torching homes, vehicles

Investigators have identified where the gunman responsible for the mass shooting in rural Nova Scotia that killed 22 people obtained decals for his replica cruiser and believe he used gasoline while setting homes and vehicles on fire.

RCMP sent out an update Monday on their investigation into the 13-hour rampage that started in Portapique, N.S., on April 18. The last time the force issued an update was a press conference on April 28.

RCMP have not disclosed the name or location of the supplier that provided the decals featuring the police force’s distinctive stripes and logos. Someone made the graphics for the vehicle without the business owner’s permission and both people are now working with police, according to the news release. It did not say if the person who made the decals worked at the business.

The Mounties have previously said the vehicle outfitted to look exactly like an RCMP cruiser gave the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, an advantage as he travelled through Nova Scotia communities the morning of April 19. He separately pulled over two women, Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien, with his fake cruiser and shot them.

Based on RCMP reports, audio recordings and interviews, this is what we know about what happened during a gunman’s rampage that left 22 victims dead. 7:21

So far, police have spoken to about 500 people with more interviews planned. They are asking anyone who had professional or personal conflicts with Wortman to contact them.

Some of the witnesses have shared information that the gunman had a “significant supply of gasoline” at his Portapique property, leading investigators to believe he used it as an accelerant.

Several homes in Portapique and Wentworth, a community about 45 kilometres to the north where a number of victims were killed, were destroyed by fire. The replica cruiser and the vehicle driven by RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was shot to death by the gunman, were also torched.

Source of firearms still under investigation

Police now say they determined the shooter left Portapique with two two semi-automatic rifles and two semi-automatic handguns. Previously, they said they traced one of the weapons back to Canada and were working with the Canada Border Services Agency because they believed others were obtained in the United States.

The Mounties have not identified the specific calibre used, nor have they released any information about whether he modified the weapons.

“Determining where and how the gunman obtained the firearms is a central part of the investigation, and we use this detailed information to verify the credibility of some of the information we receive,” the release said.

Another part of the RCMP’s investigation is whether or not Stevenson shot at Wortman when she encountered him near Shubenacadie, N.S. RCMP initially asked Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team to investigate, but the police watchdog referred the matter back to them.

RCMP investigators search for evidence at the location where Const. Heidi Stevenson was killed along the highway in Shubenacadie, N.S., on April 23. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

SIRT is still investigating why two RCMP officers fired shots at the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade hall and the confrontation with the gunman where he was shot dead at the Irving Big Stop in Enfield, N.S.

Monday’s news release also confirmed that the RCMP behavioural analysis unit is conducting a psychological autopsy of the gunman — an in-depth study that analyzes his personality, his past behaviour and his interactions with others — in hopes of better understanding his motivations.

The RCMP’s major crimes unit is leading the investigation with help from across the country, including crime analysts, people specializing in digital forensic and laboratory services as well as forensic pathologists.

As part of it, forensic identification officers worked with a team from Dalhousie University and searched for anything buried at the gunman’s Portapique property. The police release said they didn’t find anything relevant.

They said they’ve completed searches of 17 scenes.

The force is continuing to look into a possible motive and whether anyone helped the gunman in the lead up to the fires and mass shootings. The release also said police are still working on tracing his movements on April 18 and 19.

They’ve dubbed the investigation H-Strong.

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians.


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