Nova Scotia

Son of 2 Portapique victims says 2011 warning on gunman should have prevented attack

Ryan Farrington, whose parents were killed in the April rampage, says a 2011 bulletin that warned Gabriel Wortman had a stash of guns and wanted "to kill a cop" shouldn't have been purged from RCMP records.

'There's just so much we need to know and we're not getting answers,' says Ryan Farrington

Ryan Farrington lost his mother, Dawn Madsen, and stepfather, Frank Gulenchyn, in the mass shooting in April. (CBC)

The son of two people killed in last month's mass shooting in Nova Scotia believes a 2011 warning to police that gunman Gabriel Wortman had a stash of guns and wanted "to kill a cop" should have prevented the tragedy from ever happening.

The tip, according to records recently obtained by CBC News, was sent to police agencies across Nova Scotia, but RCMP can't say what, if anything, was done with it.

"I'm angry more than anything. I'm angry that 22 people lost their lives and I really, truly believe that this could have been prevented," said Ryan Farrington, whose mother and stepfather, Dawn Madsen and Frank Gulenchyn, were killed in the April 18-19 massacre.

Farrington's parents lived in Portapique, N.S., and moved from Oshawa, Ont., 10 years ago. Farrington's mother was originally from Nova Scotia and always wanted to move back. The couple loved living by the ocean.

Farrington said there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the tragedy, as well as the 2011 tip.

Farrington said his mother, Dawn Madsen, left, is originally from Nova Scotia. She and her husband, Frank Gulenchyn, right, moved to Portapique, N.S., from Oshawa, Ont., 10 years ago. Farrington said his mother and stepfather loved living by the ocean. (Jon Farrington/Facebook)

An RCMP spokesperson said the force typically only keeps warnings like that for two years.

"We can't speak about specifics of the follow-up to the 2011 bulletin because our database records have been purged as per our retention policies," Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said in an email.

"Preliminary indications are that we were aware and at minimum provided assistance to [Halifax Regional Police], which aligns with the RCMP's approach for such enquiries (sic)."

The tip was initially sent to the Truro Police Service, who then shared it with the Criminal Intelligence Service of Nova Scotia, a network of policing agencies that includes the RCMP.

Halifax Regional Police did investigate the tip at the time because Wortman has a home in Dartmouth, but determined any information about weapons was related to his cottage property in Portapique, which was outside its jurisdiction. Halifax Regional Police said that information was shared with the RCMP.

Police say Gabriel Wortman torched several homes, including his own in Portapique, in the midst of a shooting rampage in April. Nine years earlier, police agencies across the province were warned he had a stash of guns and wanted 'to kill a cop,' according to documents obtained by CBC News. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

"I don't understand why [the 2011 bulletin] would be erased after two years, knowing that there is a highly volatile person in the area, especially mainly with the weapons being at his Portapique addresses," Farrington said.

He said he was told by RCMP that the Truro police had information that could have prevented the massacre, but that it wasn't shared with them. The Truro Police Service said they never had any direct dealings with Wortman, who lived outside their coverage area, but shared all the information available nine years ago with other police agencies because of how serious it was.

The documents obtained by CBC through access to information show that one day after the 2011 bulletin, someone at the RCMP followed up with Cpl. Greg Densmore, the Truro officer who wrote the officer safety bulletin. In that exchange Densmore passed along details about the truck and jeep Wortman is believed to have used to drive between Dartmouth and Portapique.

"There's just so much we need to know and we're not getting answers," Farrington said.

He hopes the federal government calls a public inquiry that would address questions such as what the RCMP knew and when, how Wortman was able to bring in weapons illegally across the Canada-U.S. border, how he was able to get a police uniform and outfit his vehicle to look like an RCMP cruiser.

Federal inquiry

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey told CBC's Mainstreet on Friday that an inquiry into the shooting should be handled by the federal government because there are limits to what the province could do.

Furey, who is a retired Mountie, said many of the major players involved in the situation are federal agents, including the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the firearms registry.

He said an inquiry should be collaborative so the agencies that answer to different levels of government would be compelled to answer questions and implement any recommendations made.

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey would not say whether Nova Scotia would launch a provincial inquiry if the federal government decides not to launch an inquiry into the mass shooting. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Furey would not say if Nova Scotia would seek an inquiry if the federal government doesn't.

"Those would be circumstances I would address at the time," he said.

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

With files from Kayla Hounsell and CBC's Mainstreet