Canada’s Deadliest Mass Shooting in Nova Scotia

A gunman disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia that killed 16 people, the deadliest such attack in the country’s history. Officials said the suspected shooter was also dead.

A police officer was among those killed. Several bodies were found inside and outside one home in the small, rural town of Portapique, about 60 miles north of Halifax — what police called the first scene. Bodies were also found at other locations. Authorities believe the shooter may have targeted his first victims but then began attacking randomly.

Overnight, police began advising residents of the town — already on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic — to lock their doors and stay in their basements. Several homes in the area were set on fire as well.

Police identified the man believed to be the shooter as Gabriel Wortman, 51. Authorities said he wore a police uniform at one point and made his car look like a Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruiser.

“This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

RCMP spokesman Daniel Brien confirmed that 16 people had been killed in addition to the suspect. The dead officer was identified as Constable Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and a 23-year veteran of the force. Another officer was also injured.

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada. The country overhauled its gun-control laws after gunman Marc Lepine killed 14 women and himself at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique college in 1989. Before this weekend’s rampage, that had been the country’s worst.

It is now illegal to possess an unregistered handgun or any kind of rapid-fire weapon in Canada. The country also requires training, a personal risk assessment, two references, spousal notification and criminal record checks to purchase a weapon.

“As a country, in moments like these, we come together to support one another. Together we will mourn with the families of the victims, and help them get through this difficult time,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a written news release.

While they believe the attack did not begin as random, police did not say what the initial motive was. RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said many of the victims did not know the shooter.

“That fact that this individual had a uniform and a police car at his disposal certainly speaks to it not being a random act,” Leather said. He added that police believe he acted alone.

Leather said they would investigate whether the attack had anything to do with the coronavirus pandemic but no link has been found thus far.

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