Nova Scotia RCMP, province again under scrutiny over alerts following gunman's arrest

·4 min read

AMHERST, N.S. — The RCMP and officials in Nova Scotia are again being accused of failing to properly warn the public about a gunman on the loose.

Tough questions arose after a shooting suspect in New Brunswick remained at large for almost 19 hours before he was arrested early Wednesday by a municipal police force in northern Nova Scotia.

The New Brunswick RCMP confirmed via Twitter at 9:37 a.m. that the suspect's abandoned vehicle had been found in Amherst, N.S. But it wasn't until 11:10 a.m. that the Nova Scotia RCMP said in a tweet that it had requested a public alert from the province's Emergency Management Office.

An Alert Ready text, sent via TV, radio and wireless devices, wasn't transmitted until 11:42 a.m.

Tim Houston, leader of Nova Scotia's Opposition Progressive Conservatives, said that wasn't good enough.

"If the Emergency Management Office can't be proactive or timely with emergency alerts, that entire department is in need of an overhaul," he said in a tweet.

Other social media critics were more blunt, referring to the widespread criticism the Nova Scotia RCMP faced for failing to use the Ready Alert system on April 18-19 when a gunman disguised as a Mountie killed 22 people, having started his rampage in Portapique, N.S.

"So it would appear the RCMP have learned absolutely nothing from the Portapique shooting about how to communicate with the public about a shooter, or how to prevent a shooter from just travelling across the province (or the provincial border) at will?" said one post on Twitter.

Some online comments, however, were more forgiving: "They're getting better after Portapique. Not great yet, but better."

Nova Scotia Minister of Justice Mark Furey defended the province's response.

Furey said in an interview the RCMP didn't send the message about the gunman's car being found in Amherst to the Emergency Management Office until 11:35 a.m., two hours after New Brunswick RCMP tweeted about the vehicle. From there, it took only seven minutes to broadcast the prepared message to people in the province, he said.

"Law enforcement is responsible for that period of time," Furey said. "The police community has to compress that time frame wherever they possibly can."

Sgt. Andrew Joyce, a spokesman for the Nova Scotia RCMP, did not respond in an email when asked to confirm when Mounties in the province learned about the abandoned car. As well, he said decisions regarding the Ready Alert system are "based on operations,” offering no details on what happened with the alert system on Wednesday.

The New Brunswick RCMP say 24-year-old Janson Bryan Baker of Moncton was arrested without incident in Amherst by the town's police force shortly before noon.

The manhunt started Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. after a man was wounded by gunfire near a school in the Moncton suburb of Riverview. Police say the victim was approached by a man who demanded that he give him a bag he was carrying.

"That individual ... then discharged a firearm towards the man," RCMP Const. Hans Ouellette said Wednesday. The 35-year-old victim was taken to hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The New Brunswick RCMP confirmed Tuesday they were investigating a shooting, but they did not issue a warning about Baker until 11:40 p.m., when a tweet was posted saying police were searching for an "individual reported to be carrying firearms with intent to use them."

The Mounties distributed a similar Alert Ready message to residents in the Moncton area and southeastern New Brunswick.

The alerts included a description of Baker and the car he was driving. Photos on Twitter showed the distinctive tattoos on Baker's neck, right cheek and forehead.

Baker is expected to appear in New Brunswick courtroom at a later date.

On May 6, 2016, the RCMP issued a statement saying that a Janson Baker from Moncton — who was 19 at the time — was one of three people charged with the armed robbery of a CIBC bank branch in Moncton on April 30, 2016.

The Mounties said Baker was arrested on May 5, 2016 and charged with armed robbery. Police said one of two masked suspects was carrying a weapon during the robbery, and a third suspect was waiting in a car outside.

Baker later pleaded guilty to the charges of armed robbery and committing an indictable offence with a mask. He was sentenced to 48 months in prison for the robbery and six months for wearing a mask.

The tattoo on the right side of Baker's forehead says "Fearless," which is the name he uses when performing as a rapper. Photos of the Moncton man appear on the website SoundCloud, which features several of his recordings, some of which are accompanied by photos of guns, cash and what appears to be drug paraphernalia.

"I've been in trouble my whole life and I finally found something I love doing that isn't bad, so help me make it out the gudda," says an introductory message on the site.

— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax with files from Michael Tutton, Danielle Edwards and Kevin Bissett.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press