Nova Scotia

A Debert man 'had a feeling' N.S. gunman stayed on his property. He was right

Brian MacDonald can't explain it, but he just knew the gunman believed to be responsible for Nova Scotia's mass shooting had been on his property.

On April 19, Brian MacDonald of Debert discovered multiple items of police gear behind his shop

Brian MacDonald of Debert, N.S., had a feeling the gunman in Nova Scotia’s mass shooting had been on his property. 2:13

Brian MacDonald can't explain it, but he just knew the gunman believed to be responsible for Nova Scotia's mass shooting had been on his property.

MacDonald, who owns a welding shop on 123 Ventura Dr. in the rural community of Debert, had done some work for Gabriel Wortman in the past — mostly working on parts and repairs for Wortman's fleet of two or three dozen motorcycles, MacDonald said, as well as a backhoe.

Police say Wortman, 51, killed 22 people during an overnight rampage on April 18 and 19 that began in Portapique and ended nearly 100 kilometres away, in Enfield, where he was shot dead by police.

MacDonald said although his wife and daughter stayed up late following the news about possible gunshots in Portapique on April 18, about 26 kilometres southeast of Debert, he went to bed early.

The next morning, his daughter, Lisa MacDonald-White, said the situation was bad and the gunman had not yet been caught. When she heard the suspect might be a dentist, she immediately thought it must be the denturist her family knew.

MacDonald said he was "very surprised" when he learned on Sunday that police had identified the gunman as Wortman. He decided to go for a walk, and went along the lane behind his welding shop.

"I just had a feeling that he was here," MacDonald said Wednesday. "I knew that he was around somewhere and I didn't know where."

MacDonald spotted various items that appeared to be police equipment that had been thrown in a ditch. There was a light bar, an empty gun holster and leather parade boots.

There was also an empty box of shells and cartridges.

"I knew right then it was him. He put them there," MacDonald said.

On Sunday, RCMP left various orange ribbons around the Debert property as markers, which were still up on Wednesday. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

He says he called the RCMP around 11 a.m., and they responded within about a half-hour to an hour to search the area. They left various orange ribbons as markers, which were still up on Wednesday.

The RCMP confirmed Tuesday that Wortman spent roughly six hours overnight in the industrial area of Debert. A video camera captured him entering around 11:12 p.m. Saturday and leaving around 5:43 a.m. on Sunday, along the lane that is behind MacDonald's shop.

WATCH | N.S. gunman evaded police by changing clothes, cars during rampage:

Nova Scotia RCMP say the gunman in the mass shooting earlier this month initially fled through a field, hid from police and changed clothes and cars several times during the rampage. 2:05

CBC News has compiled a timeline of what we know so far based on information from RCMP, audio recordings of scanner traffic and interviews.

He was disguised as a police officer, wearing parts of an authentic RCMP uniform and driving a replica RCMP car during part of the shooting rampage.

Brian MacDonald and his daughter Leah MacDonald-White walk along the lane behind the property at 123 Ventura Dr. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

MacDonald says he has also been in Wortman's garage, which was "very, very nice," but he doesn't recall seeing any vehicles that looked like police cars, or any police motorcycles. The last time he saw Wortman was last summer, when Wortman bought a motorcycle muffler.

When asked if he felt violated or nervous knowing the gunman had been on his property, MacDonald said "for sure," but he isn't too scared now that Wortman is dead.

MacDonald-White said she is relieved not only that her father had gone out but also that her brother Jonathan wasn't around the shop. In non-COVID-19 times, she said he would regularly come into work as early as 5 a.m. on a weekend.

"I thanked God that neither of them were here when he came. Because I doubt [the gunman] would just drive by," said MacDonald-White.

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

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About the Author

Haley Ryan

Reporter

Haley Ryan is a reporter based in Halifax. Got a story idea? Send an email to haley.ryan@cbc.ca, or reach out on Twitter @hkryan17.

With files from CBC's Preston Mulligan

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