New details emerge in N.S. shootings
Audio recordings of first responders reveal frantic bid to help victims
HALIFAX—New details are emerging about the chaos that ensued as police in rural Nova Scotia tried to capture a killer disguised as an RCMP officer — and first responders tried to help a rapidly growing list of victims.
The search for the suspect stretched from late Saturday night to Sunday morning, when the death toll rose to 22 as the gunman evaded police by driving in a car identical to an RCMP cruiser.
Audio recordings of first responders communicating on two-way radios provide a glimpse of their frantic attempts to help the first victims found Saturday at 10:40 p.m. amid burning homes in the village of Portapique, N.S.
On one of the recordings, stored on the Broadcastify website, first responders dispatched to the scene along Highway 2 tell the dispatcher they can see something burning in the distance.
“I’m seeing huge flames and smoke from where we are,” one says, minutes before the dispatcher says police have discovered a gunshot victim on Portapique Beach Road.
Within the next 20 minutes, the extent of the carnage comes into sharp focus as police call for more ambulances — twice.
“There possibly could be other victims down by the scene, but police are slowly bringing people out,” the paramedic says in a steady, even tone that speaks of his training.
Then, the pace of his speech quickens. “There’s a person down there with a gun,” he says.
“They’re still looking for him. The patient we have got shot by him. He was just down there observing the fire, checking out the fire. So there could be other patients around the fire that could be gone already, but we’re not sure.” He indicates there is confusion in the darkness as police search for the killer. “It’s very vague what’s going on down there, but there is for sure multiple patients down there,” he says.
By 11:20 p.m., the first responders are still unsure of what is going on. “Do we know if they’ve caught the assailant?” one asks over the radio.
The dispatcher responds: “No, not for sure ... They’re bringing victims out to that intersection from the actual scene. But no, they don’t know if they’ve caught him. I don’t know.”
It’s unclear exactly how many people were killed along Portapique Beach Road, which includes many seasonal and permanent homes along the picturesque north shore of Cobequid Bay.
Police confirmed Wednesday that the suspect managed to escape from a perimeter they had set up around the rural area, but they didn’t realize he was gone until some time between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday when a witness revealed details about the fake police car.
Over a 12-hour period, 51-yearold Gabriel Wortman of Halifax killed 22 people — some he knew, others he met randomly as he fled.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s police watchdog is investigating why two RCMP officers started shooting at a fire hall on Sunday morning even though the suspect is not believed to have been in the vicinity.
Pat Curran, interim director of the Serious Incident Response Team, said the officers fired their weapons around 10:30 a.m. at the Onslow-Belmont Fire Hall, near Truro.
The fire hall is about a halfhour drive from Portapique.
A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial for the victims of Canada’s worst mass shooting in Portapique, N.S., on Thursday.