A gunman disguised as a policeman killed at least 16 people in a 12-hour shooting spree that began on Saturday night across rural Nova Scotia, on Canada's Atlantic Coast, in what has become the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.
Commissioner Brenda Lucki, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) - Canada's national police force - said Sunday a police officer and the suspect were among those killed.
Lucki's office late on Sunday confirmed that at least 17 people died, including the suspect, in the incident as the death toll kept on increasing throughout the evening. RCMP officials in Nova Scotia earlier said that their investigation was ongoing and the number of victims was likely to grow.
With the latest update, the shooting in Nova Scotia now overshadows a grim record set by a lone gunman who shot 14 female students at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique on December 6, 1989.
It was too early to say what motivated the shooting spree in several locations across the province, Lucki said, but added the incident doesn't appear to be terror-related.
‘We don't know for sure, and we're going to have to do a lot of work on finding the motivation - a lot of background, a lot of profiling-type events and a lot of crime scene processing,’ Lucki told CBC News.
The RCMP will also be calling on their experts in forensics and criminal profiling.
‘Whatever it takes so that we can give the families of the victims answers to the many questions that they probably have,’ Lucki said.
Nova Scotia RCMP commander Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman identified the deceased police officer as Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force.
‘Heidi answered the call of duty and lost her life while protecting those she served. Earlier this afternoon I met with Heidi's family and there are no words to describe their pain,’ Bergerman said.
‘Two children have lost their mother. And a husband has lost his wife. Parents have lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.’ Bergerman also said a second male officer was injured and was in hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said police responded to multiple 911 calls on Saturday evening at a residence in the small rural community of Portapique, about 130 kilometres north of provincial capital of Halifax.
When police arrived at the scene they found several casualties inside and outside the home, he said.
The quickly evolving situation led the police officers to search multiple locations, Leather said. There were also multiple house fires, he added.
The RCMP dispatched heavily armed police officers and advised residents of the area to lock their doors and shelter in place.
Early on Sunday morning police identified 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman as the suspect in the ‘active shooter situation’ with several victims, adding that he was considered armed and dangerous.
Leather confirmed that Wortman appeared to be wearing a RCMP uniform and driving a car resembling a RCMP police cruiser. Police said Wortman is not employed by the RCMP.
‘If you see him, call 911. DO NOT approach,’ RCMP tweeted Sunday morning.
Finally, later Sunday morning the RCMP said Wortman was seen driving another vehicle, a silver Chevrolet Tracker SUV. He was confronted by police near a gas station about 35 kilometres north of Halifax in Enfield, around 11:40 am (1440 GMT).
Leather said it is unclear whether Wortman died in the shootout with police or took his own life.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was ‘saddened to learn about the senseless violence in Nova Scotia.’ ‘Our hearts go out to the people who have lost loved ones, and to the RCMP family mourning a fallen officer,’ Trudeau said in a statement.
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