A display dedicated to Constable Heidi Stevenson at RCMP headquarters in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Monday, April 20, 2020. Investigators say a killer’s use of a mock police cruiser and an RCMP uniform almost identical to the real thing helped him escape detection as he travelled between 16 crime scenes in a rampage that has left at least 19 dead in Nova Scotia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith

Police have ‘good idea’ guns used in N.S. mass shooting were not licensed

The denturist, 51, whose business was in Halifax, began his killing spree in the small community of Portapique

Police say the man who went on a murderous rampage through five Nova Scotia communities was likely using unlicensed firearms, and investigators are trying find out how he obtained illegal weapons.

That probe into firearms is occurring alongside a hunt for anyone who helped the killer obtain an RCMP uniform and a replica vehicle he used to deceive his pursuers and the public as he went about killing 22 people and setting fire to homes on the weekend.

Chief Supt. Chris Leather said Wednesday that “we have a fairly good idea that, in Canada at least, he didn’t have a firearms acquisition certificate.”

It is illegal to own a gun without the proper licence, which federal legislation formally refers to as a possession and acquisition licence.

Leather later said that it’s now a key part of the investigation to understand how Gabriel Wortman obtained his weapons, as well as an “authentic” police uniform and a Ford Taurus that was painted in a fashion identical to a regular RCMP patrol car.

The 51-year-old denturist, whose business was in Halifax, began his killing spree in the small community of Portapique, about 40 kilometres west of Truro, late Saturday.

He managed to evade a police perimeter and continued killing people and burning homes in four other communities.

He was finally shot and killed by police at a gas pump in Enfield, N.S., his illegal guns nearby, about 12 hours after the first reports of his attacks at a home in Portapique.

Leather referred the issue of the exact type of guns that Wortman possessed to the acting director of an agency that is investigating the police shooting of the killer.

Contacted late Wednesday, Pat Curran, the acting director of the Serious Incident Response Team said he would look into providing the information about the types of guns Wortman had.

Andrew Somerset, the author of “Arms: the Culture and Credo of the Gun,” said in an interview the news that Wortman was using firearms that he wasn’t licensed to possess raises fresh issues.

“The big question now is how did he get that gun?” he wrote in an email.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia RCMP say shooter acted alone

Police will have to examine issues such as whether the gun was smuggled or purchased by a surrogate for Wortman, Somerset wrote in an email.

He noted there are already measures in place to discourage a black market in restricted weapons like handguns, which are supposed to be noted in a registry.

The array of gear and weaponry is emerging as one of the main elements of the RCMP probe three days after Wortman’s death.

“Whether it’s transportation, weapons, the uniforms, the vehicle itself, associates here and elsewhere, these are all the elements in the investigation currently being explored,” Leather said.

He also said it’s still unclear how many people died as a result of gunshots, as bodies were discovered in the burned homes and have required detailed autopsies to determine the exact cause of death.

It remains unclear whether Wortman was ever, in the past, granted a licence by the federal firearms licensing body operated by the RCMP.

Provincial court records confirm he was ordered to receive counselling for anger management after he pleaded guilty to an assault in the Halifax area on Oct. 29, 2001.

The victim, who asked not to have his name published, said he was 15 at the time and was waiting for a bus when Wortman came out of his denture clinic smelling of alcohol and told him to leave his property.

The man said he started walking to the next bus stop. ”He grabbed me by the shirt and punched me in the back of the head,” he said. “I was shocked.” Police were called and they charged Wortman with assault after taking a statement from the victim in hospital.

Wortman was granted a conditional discharge, placed on probation nine months, ordered to undergo counselling, fined $50 and told to stay away from the victim. As well, he was prohibited from owning or possessing a weapon, ammunition or explosive substances. That prohibition expired after nine months under Section 110 of the Criminal Code.

Federal legislation passed last year expanded the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire a gun. Questions about an applicant’s history now cover their entire lifetime, instead of just the five years immediately preceding the licence application.

It also forces gun retailers to keep records of firearms inventory and sales and requires the purchaser of a hunting rifle or shotgun to present a firearms licence, while the seller would have to ensure its validity.

— With files from Jim Bronskill in Ottawa and Michael MacDonald in Halifax.

Michael Tutton , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Nova Scotia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police watchdog investigating after man injured during Abbotsford standoff

Man seriously injured during arrest on May 21 at Abbotsford hotel room

New executive director for Fraser Valley Child Development Centre

Karen Dickenson Smith succeeds Karen McLean, who has retired after 22 years

Annual Walk for Alzheimer’s goes online on May 31

Event held every year in Abbotsford now raising funds through virtual event

UPDATE: Man from Mexico reported missing in Abbotsford has been located

Police report that Antonio Fernandez, 29, has been found safe and sound

Pedestrian struck in late-night collision on Highway 1 in Hope

RCMP were on scene at the incident near Flood Hope Road where traffic was rerouted for eight hours

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

‘Took about three minutes to kill’: Langley man finds Asian giant ‘murder hornet’ inside bedroom

The extra-large invasive insect had been first discovered in Brookswood on Thursday, May 28

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

B.C. tourism seeks relief as businesses wait for COVID-19 restrictions to ease

Mid-June earliest for more in-province travel to be authorized

Reward for info on trapped raccoon rises to $6,000

Activists have donated to try to find whoever laid a trap in Delta

Man last seen walking out of Royal Columbian Hospital found dead

It is unclear how or why Gavin Deloes was able to leave the New Westminster hospital

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Most Read