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What we know about a mass shooting in Nova Scotia, Canada

Police say at least 18 people were killed.

Four officers, in olive fatigues, body armor, and helmets, stand with their hands on their rifles.
Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia, where the suspect was apprehended.
Tim Krochak/AFP/Getty Images
Sean Collins is a news editor with Vox’s politics and policy team. He’s helped cover elections, Congress, and both the Biden and Trump administrations. Previously, Sean was Vox’s weekend editor.

A shooter killed at least 18 people across Nova Scotia, Canada, police said Monday.

The suspect, a 51-year-old man, died shortly after being apprehended in Enfield, Nova Scotia, a town about 20 miles north of Halifax. Police believe he was responsible for a series of shootings that began in Portapique — a small town about 60 miles north of Halifax — around 10:30 pm local time Saturday night. As of Monday, officials said they were conducting investigations at 16 sites across Nova Scotia.

For at least a few hours on Sunday morning, the suspect was disguised as a police officer. Officials aren’t yet sure of his motive, but Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said Sunday the fact that “this individual had a uniform and a police car at his disposal certainly speaks to it not being a random act.”

The suspect was ultimately apprehended at an Enfield gas station Sunday morning, after having switched vehicles. He was killed about 12 hours after police in Portapique first received a complaint about “a person with firearms” Saturday night.

Mass shootings are rare in Canada, particularly compared with the United States, in large part because stringent gun laws were enacted after a 1989 shooting that left 14 people dead. Now, any Canadian wishing to own a gun must register the firearm and undergo training, a risk assessment, and a background check. It’s not yet clear whether the suspect’s weapon was registered.

Monday, politicians faced a number of questions about new gun control legislation. In response, Canadian Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair promised that Parliament will bring forward new gun control legislation “as quickly as possible” once it returns from a coronavirus-related recess.

The story is still developing. Here’s what we know, and don’t know, so far.

What we know

  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said on Monday said that at least 18 people were killed.
  • The victims include: a 23-year veteran of the police force; a teacher at Debert Elementary School; two members of the Victorian Order of Nurses; a family of three living in Portapique; a couple living about 30 miles north of Portapique; and a man who lived near the couple, in West Wentworth, who is believed to have died trying to help his neighbors.
  • At least one other officer was shot and wounded. He was hospitalized; officials said Monday he is currently “recovering” at home.
  • Police said the suspect knew some of his victims, while others seemed to be targeted at random.
  • The shooting began Saturday night; police in Portapique, Nova Scotia, received a call about “a person with firearms” at 10:30 pm ADT.
  • On Monday, the RCMP said it was investigating at least five fires, including of homes and vehicles.
  • The suspect impersonated a police officer for a time early Sunday and was in possession of what first appeared to be an RCMP vehicle. However, the RCMP stressed on Twitter that the suspect was not a member of the mounted police.
  • The RCMP caught up to the suspect, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman of both Halifax and Portapique, at a gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia.
  • The suspect was killed after an exchange of gunfire around 10:40 am ADT.
  • On Sunday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil called the shooting “one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history,” and lamented it causing an additional “heavy burden” on a community already concerned about the coronavirus.
  • A number of other leaders also expressed condolences. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “My heart goes out to everyone affected in what is a terrible situation.”
  • Leather said Monday that the RCMP is investigating at least 16 crime scenes across Nova Scotia, and expects the police investigation to continue “for months to come.”

What we don’t know

  • The shooter’s motive
  • The firearm, or firearms, used by the shooter, and whether he had registered weapons
  • How many people were killed
  • How many people were wounded
  • The identities of all of the victims