Nova Scotia·Timeline

What we know about when and how the Nova Scotia mass shooting unfolded

People across Canada have been left grieving and shocked after a gunman went on a shooting rampage across central Nova Scotia, leaving 22 victims dead. Here is what we know about what happened and when.

A timeline of the gunman's rampage through central Nova Scotia and the police response

13 Hours: What we know about how the Nova Scotia mass shooting unfolded

4 years ago
Duration 7:21
Based on RCMP reports, audio recordings and interviews, this is what we know about what happened during a gunman's rampage that left 22 victims dead.

People across Canada have been left grieving and shocked after a gunman went on a shooting rampage across central Nova Scotia, leaving 22 victims dead. The shooter was also killed.

The massacre began in the tiny community of Portapique, N.S., in Colchester County on April 18, and ended about 13 hours later at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., on April 19.

Here's what we know about what happened and when, based on information from RCMP, audio recordings of scanner traffic and interviews.

April 18

Some time before 10 p.m. — Gabriel Wortman, 51, assaults his girlfriend in the Portapique area. A 911 call comes in about an assault between him and someone he knows. She escapes into the woods where she hides overnight.

Portapique is a small, wooded community along the Bay of Fundy roughly 40 kilometres west of the town of Truro. About 100 residents live there year-round.

Just after 10 p.m. — RCMP say the first 911 call of gunshots in Portapique comes in.

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Clinton Ellison says he is visiting his father's home in Portapique when the family hears a shot around 10 p.m. and sees a fire burning. His brother, Corrie Ellison, goes out to look. Clinton later goes to find Corrie and discovers him lying dead on the road. Clinton flees into the woods where he hides for four hours.

10:26 p.m. — RCMP officers arrive on scene to find several victims and several structure fires.

Officers find a man with a gunshot wound leaving along Portapique Beach Road, the one road in and out of the community. The man tells RCMP he was driving when he was shot by someone in a passing car that looked like a police vehicle. The man survives.

According to radio transmissions between paramedics and a dispatcher, police find the first dead victims within five minutes.

10:35 p.m. — A local resident sees a vehicle driving away from Portapique through a field. Police now believe that was the gunman leaving in a replica RCMP cruiser.

11:12 p.m. — The gunman heads east to the community of Debert, where he parks in an industrial area and spends the night. He spends more than six hours there.

11:32 p.m. — Nova Scotia RCMP tweet they are responding to a firearms complaint in Portapique. People are asked to avoid the area of Portapique Beach Road, Bay Shore Road and Five Houses Road, and to stay in their homes with the doors locked.

RCMP do not publicly address the situation for another eight hours.

The next seven hours — Police find multiple homes that have been set on fire. Some victims are discovered as police check various homes for survivors and the gunman.

More police arrive and perimeters are set up to try and catch any suspects leaving the area. New Brunswick RCMP are also brought in.

Police identify Wortman, who owns three properties in the area, as a suspect in the shootings. A house and a number of garages he owns are on fire. Police learn he owns several vehicles that look like police cars. Two replica police vehicles, plus a third vehicle, are found burning on the property. Police learn he is in possession of a pistol and long-barrelled weapons.

Many residents are moved to safety. There are seven separate locations in a five-square-kilometre area where 13 victims are found dead.

The victims who live in the area, according to property records, are:

  • Jolene Oliver, Aaron Tuck and their daughter, Emily Tuck.
  • Jamie and Greg Blair.
  • Peter and Joy Bond.
  • Elizabeth Joanne Thomas and John Zahl.
  • Lisa McCully.
  • Dawn Madsen and Frank Gulenchyn.
Flowers laid in front of the RCMP detachment in Enfield, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC)

April 19

5:43 a.m. — The gunman leaves the Debert industrial area and travels north along Highway 4 toward Wentworth.

6:29 a.m. — Video shows the gunman entering the Wentworth area, roughly 60 kilometres north of Portapique. Police believe shortly after this he goes to Hunter Road in West Wentworth where he kills two men and a woman.

At least two of the victims, Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod, are known to the shooter. Police believe he stays in their residence for a period of time before setting it on fire.

6:30 a.m. — Police say Wortman's girlfriend emerges from hiding in the woods in Portapique after calling 911. As a key witness, she tells police he has an authentic RCMP uniform, fully marked replica RCMP vehicle, and multiple firearms including pistols and long guns.

RCMP issue a bulletin for all police agencies in Nova Scotia to be on the lookout for the gunman, with a description of him and his vehicle.

8:02 a.m. — The Mounties say, via Twitter, for the first time publicly that the Portapique situation involves an "active shooter." Residents are reminded to stay inside.

Around the same time, RCMP say a series of 911 calls come in from Hunter Road in West Wentworth. Neighbours Lisa Owen and Darrol Thurier say they hear gunshots and see the Hunter Road home of Jenkins and McLeod on fire.

Around 8:45 a.m. — Owen and Thurier's son tells them he's seen their neighbour, Tom Bagley, lying dead near the Hunter Road house fire.

8:54 a.m. — Police release a photo of Wortman on Twitter and say he is considered armed and dangerous. RCMP tweet that there are "multiple victims," but don't give specifics.

9:23 a.m. — Video catches the gunman leaving Wentworth, roughly three hours after he arrived.

9:43 a.m. — The gunman continues southbound on Highway 4. He kills a woman, Lillian Campbell Hyslop, who is walking along the highway in Wentworth Valley. A 911 call comes in to report her death.

9:48 a.m. — Police say the gunman then drives roughly 20 minutes south to a residence on Highway 4 in the Glenholme area. He knocks on the door, awaking the residents. They call 911 and identify him to the operator, since they know him. They say he's carrying a long-barrelled gun and driving a police car. They do not answer the door and he leaves.

10:04 a.m. — Via Twitter, RCMP tell people to avoid Highway 4 near Hidden Hilltop Campground in Glenholme, as the gunman is in the area.

10:08 a.m. — The shooter continues northbound on Highway 4 and reaches Plains Road in Debert, close to where he had stayed overnight. He pulls over one car and kills a person inside. He continues along Highway 4 and does the same for a second vehicle.

The victims are Kristen Beaton and Heather O'Brien.

10:15 to 10:20 a.m. —The gunman drives through Onslow and the Truro area without stopping.

10:17 a.m. — Police share publicly for the first time, via Twitter, that the gunman may be driving a vehicle that looks like an RCMP cruiser and wearing what appears to be an RCMP uniform.

10:21 a.m — Police tweet that the gunman has been sighted in the area of Debert and Central Onslow, about 30 kilometres east of Portapique.

10:25 a.m. — A person who appears to be the gunman is seen on a surveillance video taken from the parking lot outside the Millbrook Trading Post.

10:28 a.m. — The gunman continues south on Highway 2 for 6½ kilometres.

10:32 a.m. — He passes a gas station in the Brookfield area.

10:49 a.m. — Two RCMP officers, Const. Heidi Stevenson and Const. Chad Morrison, arrange to meet in Shubenacadie where Highway 2 meets Highway 224. The location is about a 70-kilometre drive southeast of Portapique.

Morrison believes the RCMP car pulling up next to him is Stevenson, but instead it's the gunman, who opens fire. Morrison escapes with injuries, and notifies dispatch he's been shot.

The gunman drives south on Highway 2. Stevenson collides with the gunman's vehicle. The gunman shoots and kills her.

A man, Joey Webber, is driving by and arrives on the scene. The gunman kills him. The shooter then lights both his mock cruiser and Stevenson's police car on fire. He takes Webber's vehicle. 

11:06 a.m. — RCMP tweet that the gunman is believed to be driving a silver SUV and travelling southbound on Highway 102 from Brookfield, which is more than 20 kilometres north of Shubenacadie.

The gunman goes down Highway 224 from Shubenacadie and pulls into a home on the east side of the road. He knows the owner, Gina Goulet. He kills her.

Police say he removes the RCMP clothing he is wearing and transfers his weapons to the victim's car. He leaves driving her Mazda 3.

11:24 a.m. — RCMP tweet the gunman is driving a Chevy Tracker. They say he was last seen in Milford, just south of Shubenacadie. In fact, by this time the gunman is driving the Mazda 3. 

11:25 a.m. — He continues to drive south on Highway 102 and pulls into the Irving Big Stop in Enfield, about 92 kilometres south of Portapique.

It's at the gas station that tactical officers have also arrived to refuel. An officer gets out of their vehicle and police say "there was an encounter." Wortman is shot and killed at 11:26 a.m.

In total, he travelled at least 155 kilometres during his rampage.

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