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Warning signs of N.S. mass shooter's paranoia, guns, prior abuse noted in warrant

One person described the killer as having guns at his denturist clinic in Dartmouth and in a warehouse in Portapique

HALIFAX — A newly released document details warning signals of paranoid behaviour and unusual purchases of gasoline by the gunman who went on a rampage that killed 22 people in Nova Scotia last month.

In the document used by police to obtain a search warrant, one person described Gabriel Wortman as having guns at his denturist clinic in Dartmouth, N.S., and in a warehouse in Portapique, N.S.

The gunman was described as being "paranoid" about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he'd experienced "a mental breakdown" while discussing a deed for a property in Portapique.

The witness, who is described as having worked with 51-year-old denturist, said in a statement given to the Halifax Regional Police that the killer had talked about various types of guns, assault rifles, and handguns.

The witness also said Wortman "had been disturbed and that he was severely abused as a young boy," adding he was "very smart, cheated and was a psychopath" and had abused a person whose name is removed from the document.

Police have said that during the gunman's April 18 and 19 rampage through five communities he drove a replica police vehicle, was dressed in an RCMP uniform, shot victims with semi-automatic weapons for which he didn't have a licence and burned homes with gasoline.

In the court document made public Tuesday following an application by media organizations, the former colleague also said Wortman would dress up as a police officer and role play, though specific dates were not included in the warrant.

Another witness, who met a Halifax Regional Police officer to give a statement on April 19, described the gunman as an abusive "sociopath." The person described a gun Wortman kept by the fireplace in his warehouse that was "like a machine gun.

Two other witnesses told police Wortman had been abusive in the past and gave statements that he had recently bought $800 worth of gasoline. These witnesses described Wortman as paranoid, with security in his warehouse, and said he showed off his guns and police cars.

Another witness gave an undated statement to the Halifax Regional Police saying he had met the gunman in 2011, calling him "controlling" and "paranoid."

The witness, who provided a layout of Wortman's property, described his security camera systems, and said Wortman had described ways to get rid of bodies using burning and chemicals.

The search warrant information has blacked out the calibre and model of the gunman's firearms, but it includes evidence that he never had a licence to purchase firearms.

According to information provided by Wortman's common law spouse, the violence began when they were having drinks at his warehouse in Portapique and had been talking to friends on a video chat.

Police have previously stated that the female partner was assaulted but managed to escape to the woods — an account confirmed in the newly unsealed document — and spoke to the RCMP about Wortman the morning of April 19 at about 6:30 a.m.

The document adds her comments that Wortman poured gasoline in his cottage and warehouse and she observed that there were several firearms in the front seat of the replica police car he was driving.

She described how he had a relationship with someone in the RCMP and had one of his uniforms, though it didn't fit. "He had a fluorescent yellow jacket and he would put it in the front seat to make it look like he was a police officer," according to what his common law partner told investigators.

She said Wortman "wasn't a police officer wannabe and didn't like police officers and thought he was better than them," the document says.

In the reasons given for seeking the search warrant, she describes how the first two officers to arrive on the scene on the night of April 18 encountered a wounded witness who told them he'd been fired upon by a man in a replica RCMP vehicle.

This witness, who is not named, told the two officers he and another person noted a building on fire in Portapique and a police vehicle in a nearby blue building that was burning as well. They had believed the police vehicle was an RCMP officer responding to the emergency.

When they approached, Wortman opened fire on them with his handgun, and they fled.

Minutes later, when the witnesses met the RCMP officers arriving on the scene, the witness told them his "first suspicion was that it (the gunman) was ... Gabe (Wortman) because his barn was on fire and he had a look-a-like Taurus that he was calling a police car."

The witness told the police officers the replica vehicle had a police number on it. "The one (the car) that we saw parked was definitely badged," the witness is quoted as saying.

At that point, the witness, who was sitting on the side of the highway awaiting an ambulance felt something in his coat and pulled out a bullet. "It was under his shirt. He put it in his pant pocket but pulled it out to show someone and is not sure what happened to it after that," the document says.

The warrant was sought on April 24 by RCMP Sgt. Angela Hawryluk to search various buildings owned by Wortman, noting they had been burned and police would be seeking the assistance of an anthropologist to search the sites.

Large portions, including the identities of witnesses, have been redacted from the search warrant document. It was unsealed after a media consortium, including The Canadian Press, went to court.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2020.

— With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John's, N.L.


Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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