'It happened in a split second': Court documents reveal details in wounding of RCMP officer during N.S. mass shooting
HALIFAX -- Court documents released by a judge's order Monday contain more details surrounding the horrific mass killings that took place in Nova Scotia's Colchester County this past April, including what an injured RCMP officer witnessed as he was approached and shot by the gunman.
Twenty-two people died in the shooting rampage that occurred over more than 13 hours on April 18 and 19. One of the people shot was also pregnant at the time of her death.
A series of search warrants and other documents released Monday include a statement given by Const. Chad Morrison of the Nova Scotia RCMP. Morrison was shot and injured during the massive manhunt for Gabriel Wortman, who was dressed as a police officer and driving a mock RCMP car at the time of his crimes.
In the statement, taken April 21, Morrison tells one of the investigators that he heard a call for assistance on the radio that Sunday.
He heard Const. Heidi Stevenson respond that she would meet him at his position where he was parked near the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park.
Shortly after that, he saw a Taurus coming in his direction, and wondered whether it might be the suspect. He radioed Stevenson, who "said that it was her."
Morrison then says he moved his police vehicle to be in a better position to speak to her when she arrived to face Highway 2 near a stop sign. He then noted the approaching marked vehicle had a push bar and "it made him pause," but otherwise there wasn't anything different about the car.
But as the vehicle got closer, he saw it was a man driving, not Stevenson. In his statement, Morrison reports the suspect "looked to have a melancholy expression" as he turned in front of him, then had a "grit" look on his face as he began to raise his firearm.
Morrison says the shooter started firing at him, describing that there were three or four shots and "it happened in a split second."
The statement then goes on to describe how Morrison "floored it" and sped to the EHS station in Milford, where he radioed for help.
It was during this time he heard on the radio that Stevenson had been shot. She died of her injuries.
According to the documents, an ambulance then arrived at the EHS station, and Morrison was taken to the Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, N.S., for treatment.
It is noted in the documents by a redacted source that "the hard body armor worn by Morrison stopped the bullet from entering his chest/abdomen."
The RCMP says Morrison is recovering and is back at work.
The documents also contain information about where the shooter obtained his decommissioned police vehicles and some of the accessories he used to create his replicas.
According to the documents, the shooter purchased several old police cars by credit card from GCSurplus Ottawa, which is operated by Public Services and Procurement Canada. The purchases were made in August and September of 2019.
Wortman was killed by an RCMP officer when he was spotted getting gas at a station in Enfield, N.S.
CTV News requested information from Public Services and Procurement Canada on how many decommissioned police vehicles it sold through GCSurplus last year, but a department spokesperson deferred that inquiry to the RCMP.
The documents include a list of police car accessories investigators say the shooter purchased online, including: (Spellings appear as they do in the documents.)
- a Ford police interceptor Taurus 2013 plus model Havis police center console;
- a Setina PI interceptor Taurus sedan police push bumper ram bar;
- an LED lightbar;
- a siren lights control head;
- an in-car recordable vehicle dashcam and wireless mic bundle;
- a "subdued Canadian flag thin blue line sticker vinyl decal;"
- a gun rack, and;
- four 2012-2019 Ford Explorer Taurus police 18 wheel cover hub caps.
When it comes to the sale of decommissioned police cars and other policing accessories to the public, some family members of the victims have expressed concerns, and want to have the market more tightly regulated.
That's something Nova Scotia's opposition leader would also like to see.
"Anything that might make somebody think, 'Is this the real law enforcement that's approaching me here?' It's a public safety risk," says Tim Houston.
"Any sales of the cars or any kind of police paraphernalia they have to be tracked, they have to regulated," he adds. "But certainly any identifying insignias, anything, should be removed before anything is sold."
According to the documents, Canada's financial intelligence agency, FINTRAC, flagged some of Wortman's PayPal transactions, including his purchases of vehicle accessories through eBay. It prepared a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) with respect to those purchases, and others, details of which are largely redacted. It also included credit card transactions associated with Wortman, to buy items from GCSurplus, totaling more than $15,000. The documents say some of those purchases were for decommissioned police vehicles.
CTV public safety analyst and former OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis says he doesn't know the specifics of when FINTRACT would have prepared its STR on Wortman's financial activities, but says the RCMP would have been notified of it at some point.
"Likely they would be notifying the financial crimes people at the RCMP," says Lewis. "Would that have helped the RCMP know ahead of time that there was a mass murder about to occur? I don't believe so."
The court documents also detail how the shooter started cashing out his assets and investments beginning on March 20. He then went to a CIBC branch, spoke to the branch director, and requested to withdraw $475,000 in $100 bills.
The documents go on to explain how arrangements were made to pick up the cash in two parcels from a Brinks location.
The documents then describe how a "large sum of money" was located at the gunman's property on Portapique Beach Road. Officers with the RCMP's Proceeds of Crime unit were dispatched to the location on April 22, and a "large sum of money" was located in an ammo can, although the exact amount recovered is redacted.
The documents released Monday were made public by order of Judge Laurel Halfpenny-MacQuarrie as part of an ongoing application by eight news outlets, including CTV Atlantic. The media organizations are asking the Nova Scotia Provincial Court to release more information from warrants and other documents used in the investigation into April's mass shooting.
Meanwhile, many Nova Scotians are waiting for more information about the joint federal/provincial public inquiry which will examine the events leading up to, and including, the tragedy.
Monday, a spokesperson for the provincial Department of Justice said federal and provincial officials are "making progress."
In an email response, Jodi Sibley writes: "A third Commissioner has been identified, and the federal government is in the final stages of the vetting process. Once the third Commissioner is confirmed, the next step will be to formally appoint the Commissioners using an Order in Council process."
Sibley says families of the victims received an update last Thursday, and will receive the latest information on the public inquiry before any news is shared.