Nova Scotia mass killing: Gunman said COVID-19 pandemic would make people desperate

·4 min read

HALIFAX — The gunman responsible for the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia sent an email in March saying he was glad he was well-armed because the COVID-19 pandemic would make people desperate "once the money runs out," newly released court documents say.

The grim comment, paraphrased from an email obtained by the RCMP, is among several revealing insights contained in an RCMP application for a general search warrant released Monday, portions of which have been redacted.

According to the RCMP, Gabriel Wortman's March 19 email "talked about how the virus was huge and people have not dealt with something as big as it was."

As well, the Mounties said Wortman wasn't optimistic about what was about to unfold, saying that once people become desperate, they will need guns.

The document then quotes the gunman directly, saying: "Thank God we are well-armed."

On April 18-19, the 51-year-old denturist from Halifax killed 22 people in northern and central Nova Scotia before an RCMP officer killed him at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.

The RCMP have released few details about the firearms Wortman used during his 13-hour rampage, which started in the village of Portapique, N.S., on the night of April 18.

Having killed 13 people in the village, most of them friends and neighbours, Wortman fled the area disguised as a Mountie and driving a vehicle that looked exactly like an RCMP cruiser. 

The Mounties earlier confirmed the killer had two semi-automatic handguns and two semi-automatic rifles, but they declined to release further details due to their ongoing investigation.

Gun control advocates have said details about the firearms are important to the discussion about the federal government's recent move to ban 1,500 types of military-style assault weapons.

However, the Mounties have confirmed the gunman had a fifth firearm, which he took from RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson after he rammed his vehicle into her cruiser and then fatally shot her in an exchange of gunfire.

The new documents include fleeting references to the acquisition of weapons, but the redactions make it impossible to decipher how he obtained the four other weapons.

The documents say Wortman did not have any firearms registered on the Restricted Weapons Registration System, the Canadian Firearms Information System or something called the Cognos client application system.

The documents also contain references to emails between the gunman and Peter Griffon, the man who helped the killer create the decals for the mock RCMP cruiser.

Excerpts from emails found on Griffon's cellphone indicate that on the morning of April 18, the day the killing started, Wortman told Griffon he was going to go for a drive with his partner, whose name is redacted, to celebrate their anniversary. He also refers to unspecified work the two men would do the following day.

On July 26 and July 31, 2019, Griffon sent photos to Wortman showing a white car with RCMP decals on it. Previously released information confirms that the vehicle Wortman used to evade police on April 18-19 was purchased on July 3, 2019.

Griffon, who was on parole from prison at the time, later provided a statement to police describing how he had made the decals for Wortman's vehicle. Previously convicted of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in 2017, Griffon's parole was revoked when the National Parole Board found out about his work with Wortman.

The documents released Monday were unsealed after a media consortium sought their release in court.

The RCMP applied for the general search warrant to gain access to the gunman's Amazon accounts. 

The documents include a long list of purchases made by Wortman, including parts and equipment that were used to make his fake cruiser look more authentic, such as an emergency light bar, a prisoner transport partition and a siren.

The documents go on to quote from a statement made to police by a friend of Aaron Tuck, who was killed by the gunman on April 18 in Portapique.

The friend said when he saw the decals to be placed on the former police cruiser, Wortman told him the car would be used only in parades.

Tuck's friend also told police that Wortman and Tuck had been involved in past disputes, saying Wortman "would terrorize people" when he was drinking.

Another witness described Wortman as "bipolar."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2020

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press