Nova Scotia

'Just like Columbine': Conspirator details thwarted Valentine's Day massacre

One of the people who planned a deadly Valentine’s Day attack on the Halifax Shopping Centre is offering new details of the plot.

Lindsay Souvannarath is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder

Lindsay Souvannarath was sentenced to life in prison in April 2018. She is appealing her sentence. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

One of the people who planned a deadly Valentine's Day attack four years ago on the Halifax Shopping Centre is offering new details of the thwarted plot.

Lindsay Souvannarath is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. She must serve a minimum of 10 years in prison before she can begin applying for parole.

Souvannarath has not talked about her involvement in the plot until very recently when she gave a lengthy phone interview to the host of Nighttime Podcast, a Halifax-based podcast that looks at true crime stories.

Speaking in a flat monotone from prison, Souvannarath said she met one of her co-conspirators, James Gamble, through Facebook on Dec. 21, 2014.

The pair shared many common interests, she said, including a desire to stage a mass shooting like the one in Columbine, Colo., in which 15 people, including the two gunmen, were killed. Both were self-professed "Columbiners" — people who celebrate the 1999 massacre.

James Gamble killed himself the day before the planned attack as police closed in. (Tumblr)

While they never met in person, just eight weeks after their first online encounter, Souvannarath and Gamble were planning their own attack. 

They discussed several targets, including an elementary school, a library and a hospital, before settling on Nova Scotia's largest shopping centre on Feb. 14, 2015, Souvannarath told podcast host Jordan Bonaparte.

"It was kind of this symbolism of Western decadence and the modern world in general, just the idea of this place where people go to consume," Souvannarath said matter-of-factly.

"It seemed like it would be a protest against Capitalism, against consumerism, against greed."

'Save our last bullets for ourselves'

Souvannarath told Bonaparte there was no particular significance to Valentine's Day; they had originally planned to stage the shooting on Feb. 1 but she was unable to get a plane ticket in time.

They settled on Valentine's Day and the food court because they figured there would be more people there.

After they'd killed people at the mall, they planned to kill themselves.

"And what we were going to do was we were going to save our last bullets for ourselves and we were going to, just like Columbine, we were going to shoot ourselves on the count of three," she said.

But an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers thwarted the plot before it could begin.

Gamble was the only casualty of the plot, having killed himself as police closed in on his suburban Halifax home the day before the attack was to be carried out. Around the same time, police intercepted Souvannarath and a third conspirator, Randall Shepherd, at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Randall Steven Shepherd, described as a 'cheerleader' of the attack, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Souvannarath said she slept on the plane and didn't work on a plausible story to tell authorities when she arrived in Halifax.

"So when I got to customs, the agent there, he thought something was off because I had very little money with me, very little items and that I only had a one-way ticket so I ended up being detained and I had to speak to CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency]."

Souvannarath said her belongings were searched and they found a hat with a swastika on it. She ended up being arrested for uttering threats.

During her interrogation, Souvannarath said police told her they had read social media posts in which she and Gamble talked in general terms about an attack. When first told Gamble was dead, Souvannarath said she didn't believe the news because she thought police were trying to trick her.

Souvannarath is appealing her sentence, saying it is manifestly harsh and excessive. That appeal is to be heard in April.