April 19 (UPI) — The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Sunday a gunman disguised as a police officer killed at least 16 people during a 12-hour shooting rampage that spanned miles throughout Nova Scotia.
Among the dead was Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the RCMP. The suspect, identified as Gabriel Wortman, 51, was also killed, police said.
“Today is a devastating day for Nova Scotia and it will remain etched in the minds of many for years to come,” Assistant police commissioner Lee Bergerman told reporters during an evening press conference. “What has unfolded over night and into the morning is incomprehensible and many families are experiencing the loss of a loved one.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki confirmed there were at least 16 known victims aside from the shooter, making it one of the worst mass shootings in Canadian history.
RCMP first reported an active shooter situation in Portapique at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, urging residents to remain inside their homes and lock their doors.
RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather said officers responded to the firearms calls at a Portapique residence, discovering “several casualties inside and outside the home,” spurring a search for the missing suspect, later identified as Wortman.
Police warned that Wortman may have been driving a vehicle resembling an RCMP cruiser and wearing an RCMP uniform as he traveled southbound from the area of the initial incident.
“To clarify, the suspect in our active shooter investigation, Gabriel Wortman is NOT employed by the RCMP but he may be wearing an RCMP uniform. He is considered armed and dangerous. If you see him, do NOT approach and call 911 immediately,” RCMP wrote on Twitter.
Police conducted a search for the suspect through crime scenes, several of which were set on fire, Leather said, adding that bodies were also discovered.
The manhunt ended around 11:40 a.m. Sunday in Enfield, about 60 miles south of Portapique.
In a statement, the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team said that there was a “confrontation” with the suspect in Enfield, resulting in police discharging their weapons.
“The suspect was found to be deceased at the scene,” SiRT said.
Leather confirmed during the evening press conference that Wortman had been disguised, at least in part, as a police officer during the shooting.
“At one point during the course of the evening he appears to have been wearing — if not a portion of — a police uniform and that we believe he was driving at one point a mock-up or a vehicle that was made to look like an RCMP police cruiser,” he said.
Lucki told CBC New: The National that she believes there was “an initial motivation” behind the shooting that then “turned to randomness.”
“We don’t know for sure and we’re going to have to do a lot of work on finding the motivation — a lot of background, a lot of profiling type of events and a lot of crime scene processing,” she said.
Bergerman confirmed during the press conference that Const. Stevenson was among the victims.
“Heidi answered the call of duty and lost her life while protecting those she served. Earlier this afternoon I met with Heidi’s family and there are no words to describe their pain,” said Bergerman. “Two children have lost their mother. And a husband has lost his wife. Parents have lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.”
Bergerman also said another officer was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that he spoke with Lucki and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to offer his condolences on behalf of the government.
“The people of Nova Scotia are strong and resilient, and we will be here to support them as they heal from this tragedy,” he said.