Nova Scotia

How police finally ended the N.S. gunman's 13-hour rampage

New documents released Wednesday by the commission leading the public inquiry into Nova Scotia's shooting rampage that killed 22 people show what happened leading up to, and during, the gunman's death on April 19, 2020.

Warning: details are disturbing

RCMP Const. Craig Hubley shot the gunman as he sat in victim Gina Goulet's stolen Mazda at 11:25 a.m., April 19, 2020, at the Enfield, N.S., Irving Big Stop. The red circle has been added by the Mass Casualty Commission to emphasize Hubley's face. (Mass Casualty Commission )

The mass killer who took the lives of 22 Nova Scotians as he drove in a fake police car across the province likely shot himself in the head as officers fired 23 bullets at him at a gas station, seconds after recognizing him.

New documents released Wednesday by the Mass Casualty Commission leading the public inquiry into the April 2020 shooting rampage detail what it believes happened leading up to, and during, the gunman's death on April 19, 2020.

The province's chief medical examiner concluded the shots fired by police were likely what killed the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, at the gas station in Enfield, N.S., according to the records.

The documents also offer more details of what happened just minutes before, at around 11:16 a.m., when the gunman stopped at another gas station but wasn't recognized by a police officer who had arrived to fill up.

The shooter was driving the Mazda 3 he'd stolen moments earlier from his final shooting victim, Gina Goulet, when he pulled up at a Petro-Canada in the community of Elmsdale, near Enfield.

At the same time, three RCMP constables with the emergency response team pulled up on the opposite side of the same pump at the Petro-Canada, facing the opposite direction.

Surveillance footage from the Elmsdale, N.S., Petro-Canada shows the gunman at the gas pump opposite emergency response team members around 11:16 a.m. on April 19, 2020. (Mass Casualty Commission)

One of the officers, Const. Brent Kelly, later told the commission he noticed the man just feet away from him at the gas pump — but didn't think anything of him since he was dressed in jeans and a white shirt.

"I had a hard time with that for …a little while," Kelly said. "That hit me."

At that point, police believed the gunman was dressed as a Mountie and was still in the silver SUV he'd stolen from victim Joey Webber, who he'd killed less than a half-hour earlier. Kelly had no idea he'd changed his clothes when he stopped at Goulet's home.

The gunman at one point tried to stretch a gas line across the Mazda to fuel up but it wouldn't reach. A gas station employee came over the intercom and told him to move to a different pump.

Kelly noticed a "slight bump" over the man's left eye, but said "knowing the area … Sunday morning, I really didn't pay too much attention to a guy with a shiner. I'm like, that's not uncommon."

The gunman then moved to a pump further away, but left soon after without getting gas.

Twenty-two people died on April 18 and 19, 2020. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O'Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (CBC)

About seven kilometres south, Dorothy Rogers was working at the Irving Big Stop in Enfield that morning. She'd learned from a friend about a man who was shooting people while dressed in a police uniform, driving a fake police car.

Rogers knew the gunman had been spotted in Brookfield and was headed her way, which was "unsettling." She then noticed police officers with guns get out of a light-coloured SUV at the pumps beside a small grey car.

"I just thought, 'Oh God no, please no,'" Rogers told police later that day.

She looked at the surveillance cameras and noticed more police in the surrounding area. 

"It all happened really fast. Like, less than a minute, like maybe 30 seconds," said Alex Fox, who had pulled his motorcycle up in front of the Big Stop shortly before the shooting started.

Fox said he saw the vehicle carrying two RCMP officers stop beside the grey Mazda already at the pumps, and men in green uniforms get out.

They yelled "show us your hands" or something similar before opening fire, Fox told police that day.

Unclear how much time passed before shooting

RCMP dog handler Const. Craig Hubley, who was driving the unmarked SUV, had quickly recognized the gunman sitting in the Mazda beside him when he pulled up to the pump at 11:25 a.m., less than a minute after the gunman had arrived. Hubley recognized the gunman's face, and shouted to the officer with him, Const. Ben MacLeod, that it was the shooter.

MacLeod moved to the front of the Mazda and through the windshield the gunman "looks me directly in the eye" and "reaches with purpose" toward the right side of the car, he later told commission investigators.

The gunman then raised a silver and black pistol in his hand that the officers recognized as that of Const. Heidi Stevenson, who the shooter had killed earlier during a gunfight after ramming her police cruiser. Both MacLeod and Hubley opened fire.

The commission notes there is some discrepancy around exactly how much time passed between when the Suburban with Hubley and MacLeod stopped at the pump and when they started shooting.

The video surveillance footage from the gas station appears to show a duration of less than 10 seconds, while the ERT radio channel reflects 18 seconds. The commission said they are investigating which recording accurately represents the passage of real time.

RCMP officers at the gas station in Enfield on April 19, 2020, moments after the gunman was shot by police. (Tim Krochak/The Canadian Press)

A few minutes after this, a formation of tactical team members approached the car and brought out the gunman. They pinned him to the ground and cuffed him with zip ties, the documents say, before declaring he was dead.

Kelly was among that group, and said while he was "wearing a lot of guilt" that he hadn't stopped the gunman in Elmsdale, he was glad to later find out no one had been hurt in between both gas stations.

He was also involved in the 2014 Moncton, N.B., shootings where three RCMP officers were killed and two injured. That was difficult, he said, but in that case everything was directed at the Mounties — not "a bunch of very normal innocent people" who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

24 casings collected from scene

According to inquiry documents, there were 13 casings found on the ground that were 9-mm. The commission believes 12 came from Hubley's Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol, and one from Stevenson's service pistol the gunman had stolen after killing her.

There were also 11 casings found on the ground matching MacLeod's .300-calibre carbine rifle, adding up to 23 shots fired by police.

During a post-mortem examination of the gunman's body, chief medical examiner Dr. Matthew Bowes found a bruise and two bullet wounds to his head, and dozens of wounds to his neck, chest, abdomen and both arms. 

Bowes determined one head wound was "suspected self-inflicted" and would have been "severely debilitating." However, he said it would not be "necessarily an immediate cause of death."

Bowes said in his opinion, the gunman was killed by multiple gunshots to the organs.

The second head wound was not debilitating and likely caused by Stevenson's return gunfire at the Shubenacadie, N.S., highway interchange where she was killed, the commission believes. Bowes agreed this theory is credible, as the bullet was fired from some distance away and through glass.

Union says police criticism has been 'unfair'

Brian Sauvé of the National Police Federation, which represents thousands of RCMP members below the rank of inspector, said in a statement Wednesday the union extends their deepest respect and gratitude to Hubley and MacLeod "whose actions very likely saved many lives."

He said in the two years following the mass shooting there "has been much armchair and unfair criticism" of what the Mounties did or did not do during the 13 hours the gunman was active. 

"We know that each member rose to the occasion, with the information available at the time, in an implausible and truly unthinkable situation, risking their lives to protect others in their communities," Sauvé said.

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