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Truth, Deception, and Nova Scotia’s Mass Shooting

the Victims, and the Command of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

by Ken Summers

Truth, Deception, and Nova Scotia’s Mass Shooting

 

 

 

Saturday night April 18, 2020 Portapique

 

 

Among the first victims of shooter Gabriel Wortman:

          Lisa McCully

          Greg Blair

          Jamie Blair

Only exceptional luck would have allowed an RCMP officer to be in a position to save the first victims. Their 4 terrified children huddled in a basement, in constant contact with a 911 operator.

But RCMP did not rescue the children for hours.

 

          Corrie Ellison

          Elizabeth Thomas

          John Zahl

          Joy Bond

          Peter Bond

          Dawn Madsen

          Frank Gulenchyn

          Emily Tuck

          Jolene Oliver

          Aaron Tuck

The 13 Portapique victims of the shooter were killed over the course of nearly 90 minutes.

The shooter never hurried, moving among the houses of his community- killing and burning. RCMP command gave him ample time to decide what he would do next, or to simply wait for police to arrive.

At multiple press briefings RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell said that the first 911 call from Portapique came at 10:01, and their first officers arrived at 10:26.

The first report to 911 of a large fire came by 9:15- at least 45 minutes earlier than the claim by RCMP command. There were reports of gunfire by 9:30, and the volunteer fire department was instructed not to go to the fires. Shortly after, the first RCMP officers began arriving to wait on Highway 2, outside the large and spread out Portapique subdivision.

10:01 is the time 911 operators instructed residents to evacuate to Great Village Fire Hall.

At 10:26 a resident wounded by the shooter drove out of the subdivision to seek help from several officers already on the scene, named the shooter and described him as being in full RCMP uniform and driving the replica squad car.

Officers at the scene were under strict orders to not enter the scene of the fires and killings.

What RCMP command have never reported is that they were exercising a protocol for the safety of officers: only trained Emergency Response Teams are to actively go into an active shooter situation. Command stuck to this protocol despite knowing it would take hours before the Dartmouth ERT could mobilize and reach Portapique.

Also evident from actions at both Portapique, and at Hunter Road the next day, is that these protocols do not specify what other RCMP officers at and near the scenes are supposed to do while waiting for an ERT to arrive- not even mandating the basic precaution of closing off exits available to a shooter.

At 10:45 the shooter left the area unseen via roads easily visible on Google Earth: exiting onto Highway 2 a few hundred metres from where RCMP officers were gathered.  The mobilized Emergency Response Team departed Dartmouth after that-  at high speed they were still over an hour from Portapique and the appointed task to control the deadly situation. By the time they got there, the shooter was settled for the night half an hour away in the Debert Industrial Park.

During the night RCMP command came to the erroneous conclusion that the shooter had burnt all of his replica RCMP vehicles and had himself perished. Dartmouth ERT was sent home, and no replacement ERT was brought to the scene or mobilized to depart quickly.

 

 

Sunday morning April 19, 2020 Hunter Road, Wentworth Valley

          Alanna Jenkins

          Sean McLeod

The shooter knew the next victims and knocked on their door 6:30 Sunday morning. RCMP having allowed him to escape from Portapique, not even a public warning would likely have saved his first victims of April 19.

Well before 8:00am RCMP knew that the shooter had left Portapique in his cruiser. By 8:00, they began receiving calls from Hunter Road of a house on fire, and of gunfire. The Wentworth Fire Department had mobilized its volunteer fire fighters to the station. As had happened the previous night, by 8:30 RCMP command instructed the fire department not to go to the fire.

Also as had happened the previous night, nearby officers were sent only to wait at the Hwy 4 end of Hunter Road. Being closest, this time Moncton ERT was mobilized. Not able to depart until 9:00, they never made it to the next series of killing scenes.

 

          Tom Bagley

The death of Tom Bagley was the first the RCMP could have prevented simply with timely public warnings of the dangers command had now been aware of for some time.

At the same time calls were coming in from Hunter Road, RCMP command inexplicably put out an 8:04 tweet that simply warned of “an active shooter in the Portapique area.”

While he lived quite close to the home of Jenkins and McLeod, Tom Bagley heard none of the gunfire, nor saw any smoke until he left his house for a walk at 8:50. The RCMP knew the local situation for an hour at this point, and had officers waiting at the end of the road. But they took no steps to warn residents of the danger.

After killing Jenkins and McLeod and setting fire to the house, the shooter did not leave. He just waited on the property for over an hour, as he had done at times the night before in Portapique. He had opportunities to kill a number of residents who came nearby to investigate.

Only Tom Bagley came close.

Up close and personal, the shooter surprised all 22 of his victims.

Bagley’s body was seen near the burning house by other residents. When they reported this to 911, some of the officers waiting at the end of Hunter Road finally came in.

At the same time, the shooter had decided to wait no more- driving away 15 minutes after killing Bagley.

One more tragic repetition of the incomprehensible critical errors of the night before: there are two exits to Hunter Road. Officers had been waiting at the north one for the Moncton ERT to arrive. The shooter left undeterred out the nearby south exit.

 

          Lillian Hyslop

          Kristen Beaton 

          Heather O'Brien

All three of these women left home, unwittingly going into an exposed and dangerous place, more than two hours after RCMP command knew that the shooter was loose and could be anywhere; and over an hour after command knew he was killing again at Hunter Road.

Lilliann Hyslop was walking on Highway 4, and had no reason to wonder about what appeared to be an RCMP officer pulling up to her. The shooter killed her 8 minutes after he easily left Hunter Road. Then he continued another 15 minutes south on Highway 4.

This was a very obvious opportunity RCMP command had for setting up a roadblock. The speeding south Moncton ERT blocked escape to the north. Many RCMP were staged within minutes of potential roadblock sites. At the time the shooter passed south through the Wentworth Valley, command had an hour and a half to take this basic step.

No roadblock.

At 9:48- half an hour after he left the Hunter Road killings scene- the shooter was reported in his RCMP uniform at the door of Glenholme residents he knew. There had been no public warnings to alert them. But they had luckily been talking to friends in Portapique. They hid, called 911, and RCMP forces converged on the property.

Operational commander Superintendent Chris Leathers told colleagues in an email “we have him pinned down.”

Actually the shooter left the property before RCMP got there. While they were combing the property, the shooter was driving down Plains Road in Debert, where he separately killed the two VON nurses after pulling up to their vehicles.

 

          Constable Chad Morrison  (wounded and survived)

          Constable Heidi Stevenson

          Joey Webber

For these key hours, the RCMP command decisions of how much information to release about the shooter show a keen concern with optics about the wisdom and competence of their previous choices. Choices that turned out to have fatal consequences.

Keeping the public in the dark never worked for the victims of the murderous rampage. And now it clearly was not working for RCMP command either.

At 10:17, a few minutes after they know Beaton and O’Brien have been taken by surprise and killed, in another tweet they finally release the now famous picture of the replica RCMP.

Despite the chaos and panic that mushroomed after the Keystone Cops episode in Glenholme, command has at least figured out the shooter is traveling south, with probable intended targets in the Halifax area.

But still no roadblocks.

Because the shooter takes a leisurely looping tourist route south, the Moncton ERT-now hours into their nonstop chase- are gaining and converging on the shooter, as are other officers. RCMP get their first real time report of him travelling south on the old Highway 2 through Brookfield, and swing off of the 102 there.

Constables Morrison and Stevenson had arranged to meet on the side of Highway 2, about 15 minutes south of Brookfield.

In the press briefings Superintendent Campbell said the constables knew RCMP forces had been looking for the shooter driving an RCMP squad car. He also said that after the shooter pulled up to the parked and waiting Morrison, shooting and wounding him, that “several minutes transpired  before Constable Stevenson and  the shooter were engaged.” Earlier accounts by Campbell called this “an exchange of gunfire.”

The two constables were in fact communicating only via their Enfield Detachment radio. Ongoing rapid discussion of events was confined to Bible Hill Detachment radio communications. And the RCMP had only told the public about the fake police car in a tweet while the constables were on their way to what was going to be a straight up ambush.

If Morrison saw or suspected anything at all about the RCMP vehicle coming behind him, line of sight from his position did not give him time to use his radio. When shot, Morrison rocketed off, pressing his emergency button that he needed help. Again, no time for the radio.

As he raced by and headed down the cloverleaf interchange’s Shubenacadie exit Morrison could not have seen Stevenson coming slowly up the entrance ramp from Shubenacadie. The slower shooter, now well behind Morrison, did see the new RCMP car just arriving, and made a quick decision to cross the highway and ram Stevenson head on. This happened about 30 seconds after Morrison was shot.

Constable Stevenson did not have time to puzzle why another officer was coming straight at her. Like any driver, she instinctively swerved out of the way. So the shooter rammed the passenger side back end of her car, spinning her around, nose to the guardrail. When Stevenson got out of her car, the shooter killed her with his handgun.

Joey Webber had left home on a short errand. He spoke to his wife of the crazy killer in Portapique. The very  belated clear warning from the RCMP came after he left. So he saw only what was in front of his now stopped vehicle: two police cars that had somehow crashed. He got out of his car, and was also killed at short range.

His car now disabled, the shooter quickly transfers gear, weapons and ammo to Webber’s silver Tracker SUV. Before leaving, the shooter torches his own car. He takes off south. Multiple witnesses identified that car, and the direction of travel.

Moncton ERT arrive shortly after, and swing into action with the flames just beginning to build. ERT members execute their training for securing the scene.  Other officers had arrived to the intersection just ahead of the ERT. They get a description of the silver Tracker and send out a bulletin.

But no RCMP are sent after the shooter.

Nor are there any roadblocks placed- even though command knows he is headed for Halifax, with more targets in mind.

Constable Morrison survived. But not only does he bear the trauma of being ambushed, he bears the additional trauma of knowing that his superiors are telling a considerably altered version of the facts.

No doubt commanding officers offered the comforting  words: “there was nothing you could have done that would have saved Heidi Stevenson”.  But given the evidence of who RCMP command is most intent on protecting, it seems unlikely that they gave to Morrison the kind of details that would back up those empty words.

 

          Gina Goulet

 

The shooters last victim is also someone he knew, and he knew where she lived- only two minutes from where he had just killed Stevenson and Webber. He was at her house for at least 15 minutes, while RCMP were securing the nearby killing site. After killing Goulet, he changed into civilian clothes, and transferred everything to her car from the silver Tracker he knew would be identified.

Still no roadblocks.

Nor was there any pursuit of a rampaging killer known to be on his way to the city.

Luck is all that spared Nova Scotia any further killings. The shooter found out he had little gas in his latest stolen car. And two RCMP on their way north happened to also need gas, choosing as well to stop at the Enfield Irving Big Stop.

At the gas pumps, an alert K-9 officer noticed the odd behavior of the man with a bleeding head wound (from the impact of ramming Constable Stevenson). The two officers executed the active shooter training that most RCMP officers have received.

RCMP command had not deployed them to that spot we all needed them to be, and they were the first officers in a position to use that active shooter training.

In the words of a member of the Canadian military who moved away from Portapique out of fear of her old neighbor-

                              “At least the son of a bitch is dead now.”

 


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