HALIFAX — A portion of a witness statement released Friday says the gunman who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia had ”recently” acquired one of his firearms in Canada from the estate of a friend who died.
The disclosure following a court hearing still doesn’t provide the calibre or model of the five weapons that Gabriel Wortman used during his 13-hour rampage.
Crown prosecutors voluntarily released a few previously hidden details to a media consortium after a court hearing, though large sections of the court documents remain redacted.
The media group, which includes The Canadian Press, is seeking wider disclosure of the evidence police used to obtain search warrants related to the April 18-19 mass shooting.
The RCMP had said in a June 4 news conference that of the five firearms possessed by the killer, three were obtained illegally from the United States and one was obtained illegally in Canada “through the estate of a deceased associate.”
A witness statement to RCMP taken on April 19 — blacked out prior to Friday’s release — says, “Gabriel Wortman just recently acquired guns from a friend who passed away.” The witness, whose identity is redacted, also told officers he thought Wortman owned a bulletproof vest and collected guns.
And the person described Wortman’s property on Portapique Beach Road as having a large garage with rooms upstairs. “There are lots of motorcycles and a RCMP car that Gabriel was fixing up,” the statement said.
The Canadian Press has emailed the RCMP to ask for the date Wortman acquired the Canadian firearm, but a spokeswoman said she didn’t expect to be able to provide a response to that and other questions until next week.
The RCMP had earlier confirmed the killer’s firearms included two semi-automatic handguns and two semi-automatic rifles but declined further details due to the ongoing investigation.
Gun control advocates have said details about the firearms used are important to the discussion surrounding the federal government’s recent move to ban 1,500 types of military-style assault firearms, and other firearms legislation.
The fifth firearm was taken from RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson after Wortman’s vehicle ran into hers and he killed her in an exchange of gunfire.
The Crown also released a sentence from a witness statement saying the gunman purchased material used for the RCMP decals on his replica vehicle on July 3, about nine months before his rampage.
On April 28, RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell told a news conference the 51-year-old denturist was believed to have obtained the vehicle last fall and outfitted it with the decals then.
The court also released a seventh search warrant, with large portions blacked out, in which officers sought records for Wortman’s landline telephone and a cellular phone.
It notes Wortman didn’t own a cellphone and he had smashed another person’s cellphone, which police believed was in the burnt remains of his home in Portapique, N.S.
“The historical call details in the possession of Bell Aliant … will show who Gabriel Wortman and (name blanked out) had been in contact with prior to Gabriel Wortman commencing his killing,” the officer said in the April 24 document.
“The information will assist in determining if there are any co-conspirators in this tragic event.”
The RCMP said in an email they will respond next week to a question about whether they have determined if there were co-conspirators.
Each of the applications for a search warrant is accompanied by a grim recounting of the events that started on the night of April 18, when the killer assaulted his common-law spouse at his seasonal home in the village of Portapique.
Armed with several semi-automatic weapons, he set fire to properties and killed 13 people in Portapique before he left the area, disguised as a Mountie and driving the vehicle that looked exactly like an RCMP cruiser.
He killed another nine people the following day in several other communities in northern and central Nova Scotia before an RCMP officer fatally shot him at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 90 kilometres south of Portapique.
His victims included an RCMP officer, two nurses, two correctional officers, a family of three, a teacher and some of his neighbours in Portapique.
There have been numerous calls for a public inquiry to investigate how police handled one of the worst mass shootings in Canadian history, including pleas from relatives of victims, politicians and more than 30 professors at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Last week, Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Mark Furey indicated some form of federal-provincial review or inquiry was in the works, but the specific nature of the investigation remained unclear.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2020.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press