Nova Scotia

Psychological autopsy on N.S. gunman found he was an 'injustice collector,' RCMP say

In a media briefing Thursday, several of the top RCMP officers in the Atlantic region provided an update on the investigation into the shooting that killed 22 Nova Scotians in April.

22 people were killed between April 18 and 19 as gunman moved across Nova Scotia

N.S. RCMP update on mass shooting reveals details about guns, bulletins and shooter's psychology

3 years ago
Duration 4:40
The accused gunman was seen as an "injustice collector," according to a preliminary behavioural analysis, says Supt. Darren Campbell, officer in charge of support services for Nova Scotia RCMP.

RCMP say a psychological autopsy on the gunman who killed 22 Nova Scotians has determined he was an "injustice collector," or someone who held on to conflicts with others until he boiled over with rage. 

In an effort to understand why the gunman did what he did and if there were any factors that could have predicted the shooting, RCMP profilers and an RCMP forensic psychologist have been helping with the investigation.

The information was shared during a news briefing on Thursday, the first update from Nova Scotia RCMP on its investigation into the mass killing in more than a month.

RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell said the psychological autopsy is underway. 

"The aim of it is to gain a better understanding of the contributing factors to better comprehend, if possible, the why, the why now and why in this manner," Campbell said. 

Behavioural analysts have shared some of their preliminary findings with the investigative team, Campbell said.

"In those findings, the gunman was described as what is called an injustice collector — one who held onto conflict or differences with others, turning them inward until they boiled over in rage" Campbell said.

"Some recipients of his wrath of violence were targeted for perceived injustices of the past, others were reactive targets of his rage and some were just random targets."

Illegal firearms

Police have confirmed that all the firearms used by the gunman during his rampage were obtained illegally.  The killing started on April 18 in Portipique, N.S., and continued for 13 hours across several other communities in the province.

"This component of the investigation remains active and [involves] international law enforcement partner agencies," said Campbell.

Three of the illegal guns came from the U.S., one was obtained illegally in Canada through the estate of a deceased associate, and the fifth belonged to Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was killed while trying to stop the gunman. Only one of the guns used in the attack was mentioned in a 2011 police bulletin about the gunman. 

Police agencies across Nova Scotia were warned in May 2011 that a denturist named Gabriel Wortman had a stash of guns and said he wanted "to kill a cop." The bulletin was subsequently purged from the RCMP databases after two years, as per protocol.

Police also confirmed an RCMP officer spoke to the gunman at his home several times in the past.

"That officer was looking for signs and having conversations with the gunman, however he didn't see anything that would have caused him any concern or allowed him to take any further action," Campbell said.

Gunman Gabriel Wortman, 51, was dressed like an RCMP officer and was driving a replica RCMP vehicle for some of his rampage. He did not use the replica vehicle to pull over any of his victims who were in their cars at the time they were killed, Campbell said.

Uniform questions remain

It's still not clear how the gunman got an RCMP uniform. Campbell said while there was a "familial association" between the gunman and two retired RCMP members, police said he was estranged from those relatives and police don't believe they supplied him with their old uniforms.

The gunman knew another police officer from another police agency in Nova Scotia, but Campbell said investigators don't think he got the uniform that way either.

The gunman was never associated with the RCMP as a volunteer or as an auxiliary police officer.

N.S. RCMP immediately began search for threat after first call about shooter

3 years ago
Duration 5:41
Within minutes of receiving the initial call in what became a mass shooting that devastated Nova Scotia in April, RCMP say they had put together a critical incident team. 

Stevenson's final moments

Campbell said police don't believe Stevenson rammed the gunman's vehicle when they crossed paths on the morning of April 19. He said the gunman's vehicle sustained more damage than Stevenson's vehicle. 

Campbell said Stevenson did engage with the gunman, and shots were fired between them. Campbell said Const. Chad Morrison had been shot earlier in the morning, prior to the contact between Stevenson and the gunman. He said Stevenson and Morrison were both wearing hard and soft body armour.

Hundreds interviewed

To date, Campbell said, investigators have interviewed more than 650 people from places including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the U.S.

Even though the gunman is dead, Campbell said the RCMP investigation must meet the same standards as if the case were headed to court.

In addition to figuring out the gunman's activities before the killings, police are still trying to determine whether or not  anybody knew about his plan.

Fire hall shot at

RCMP criminal operations officer Chief Supt. Chris Leather said RCMP will compensate the Onslow Belmont Fire Hall in Lower Onslow, N.S., after police shot at it while the gunman was still at large.

Leather said he was able to have a "very respectful and honest" conversation with the fire department about what happened.

The incident is being investigated by Nova Scotia's police watchdog, the Serious Incident Response Team.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.