Nova Scotia

He was 'hunted' by the Portapique gunman and survived. His brother didn't

As his brother lay dead in the road, Clinton Ellison quietly hid in the freezing woods and prayed the police would come to save him from a gunman ravaging the community of Portapique, N.S.

Clinton Ellison hid in the woods as a gunman rampaged through Portapique, N.S.

'All I could hear was explosions from the fires and gunshots,' says Ellison. He ran, terrified, into the woods to save his own life. 9:15

For four hours, Clinton Ellison lay quietly in the freezing woods and prayed the police would come to save him from a gunman ravaging the community of Portapique, N.S.

He had already seen his brother's dead body lying on the side of the road.

Hiding in the woods, he could hear gunshots all around him and popping from fires raging through nearby homes and cars.

"Something right out of a horror movie, worse than a horror movie," Ellison said Wednesday. "It's a nightmare through hell."

He was witnessing the early hours of a gunman's 12-hour rampage through rural Nova Scotia that would end the lives of at least 22 victims, making it one of Canada's deadliest mass shootings.

On Saturday, Ellison and his brother, 42-year-old Corrie Ellison, had decided to spend the night in Portapique to visit their father. The pair planned to return home the next day — Clinton Ellison to Halifax and Corrie Ellison to Truro, N.S.

But around 10 p.m., they heard a single gunshot. The pair looked outside and noticed a glow in the sky coming from a nearby fire.

Corrie Ellison decided to venture out to find out what was going on, even as his dad pleaded with him to stay. Eventually, he called and told them the fire was really bad and to call the fire department.

His brother and his father waited again. This time, there was no word. Clinton Ellison went out in search for his brother. He walked up the road, flashlight in hand.

"I could see a body laying on the side of the road, as I got closer I could see that it was my brother," he said.

"I got one more step closer and I could see blood, and he wasn't moving. I shut my flashlight off, I turned around and I ran for my life in the dark."

Hours hiding in the woods

Moments later he turned back to the road. There was a flashlight moving around.

"I ran so hard into the woods. I laid there for at least about four hours hoping and praying that the police would come," he said.

Gunshots and explosions from the fires raged all around him. He didn't dare bring out his cellphone, he said, fearing the light would attract the shooter.

Corrie Ellison was described as being a thoughtful and kind friend. (Clinton Ellison/Facebook)

After the first hour, Ellison called his dad. He told him to call the police, to turn off all the lights and hide. He pleaded with his father not to call him back, fearing the phone light and noise would attract attention.

He stared up at the sky, "freezing to death" for hours.

"To walk up and find my brother dead, and to be hunted by this fella that killed all these people, I'll be traumatized for the rest of my life," he said. "I'm having a really hard time with it."

Police response

Finally, after hours of hiding, police arrived. His father was unhurt. RCMP told Ellison there was a gunman on the loose, but he's heard very little information since then.

"That's a trail of destruction down there. Numerous burned homes, numerous burned cars. It's horrible," he said.

WATCH | Video shows N.S. shooting suspect shortly before he was caught:

Surveillance video shows the suspected gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting less than an hour before he was caught and killed by police. 1:53

Ellison has been frustrated by the lack of information by police. He said he has no idea where his brother's body is — and police still have not called his father to tell him his son is dead. The only reason they confirmed it to him, Ellison said, is because he called multiple times to ask.

Ellison is also "sick to his stomach" there was no emergency alert, joining the criticism from family and friends of other victims who say one should have been issued.

"It could have saved some more lives," he said.

RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather fields questions at a news conference at RCMP headquarters in Dartmouth, N.S., on Wednesday. (CBC News)

RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather was asked on Wednesday why Ellison didn't see or hear police during that time.

Leather said police had established two secure perimeters in that area overnight.

"So while that fellow may have thought there weren't police in the vicinity, there were a large number of police officers both in vehicles and on foot in Portapique."

Leather also addressed the lack of a provincial alert on Wednesday. He said there were delays in communications between the province and various officers, as well as the discussion about what the message would say.

"We were in the process of preparing an alert when the gunman was shot and killed by the RCMP," Leather said.

Corrie Ellison is shown in a handout photo submitted by his friend Ashley Fennell. Ellison is among the victims of this past weekend's mass killing in Nova Scotia. (Ashley Fennell via The Canadian Press)

Corrie Ellison is remembered as a thoughtful, kind friend who went out of his way to help others.

"He's the type of person that I don't think anybody would want to see that happen to him," said his father, Richard Ellison.

Clinton Ellison said his little brother liked fishing and the outdoors.

"My brother was a really good guy," he said. "He helped people that he could."

Ashley Fennell said she was good friends with Corrie Ellison for almost a decade. She described him as "a beautiful soul."

Corrie Ellison was on disability support because of an old injury. He had no children of his own but he loved kids, Fennell said.

He would join Fennell and her son swimming in the summer. Last Christmas, he offered some money for her son's gifts. He once paid for Fennell to take her son on a trip to a water park when she was struggling.

"I would call him, and it didn't matter what he was doing, he would jump for me," she said.

He had texted her about picking up a cigarette roller about a week ago, but the two never arranged a time with the ongoing pandemic. Fennell didn't know it would be the last time she talked to her friend.

Clinton Ellison said his heart goes out to the families of the other victims. He hopes the province will rally around the "peaceful, quiet" community that fell victim to an atrocity.

"Help people. That's my message today: help people," he said. "Come together as a community and help each other. These people need help, they are going to be suffering for a long time."

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

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With files from Brett Ruskin, The Canadian Press

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