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Two Mounties started firing at N.S. mass shooter as he lifted RCMP pistol: documents

HALIFAX — Two officers who fired rounds into the torso of a mass shooter at a Nova Scotia gas station say they started shooting as the killer raised what one believed to be an RCMP general duty pistol.
RCMP officers at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., where a mass shooter was killed by police on Sunday April 19, 2020. Both officers who fired repeatedly into the torso of a mass shooter at a Nova Scotia gas station say they started shooting when the killer lifted what appeared to be an RCMP officer's general duty pistol. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Krochak

HALIFAX — Two officers who fired rounds into the torso of a mass shooter at a Nova Scotia gas station say they started shooting as the killer raised what one believed to be an RCMP general duty pistol.

Both had heard earlier the perpetrator had taken the weapon from their murdered Mountie colleague, Const. Heidi Stevenson.

Details of how two RCMP officers brought the rampage of a 51-year-old denturist to an end after 13 hours have been released over the past week in interviews and statements gathered as evidence by a public inquiry into the April 18-19, 2020, killings.

Const. Craig Hubley, a dog handler, and Const. Ben MacLeod, a member of the emergency response team, had teamed up in Hubley's vehicle on the morning of April 19 amid the frantic pursuit of Gabriel Wortman as he continued his murders in central Nova Scotia.

Through the morning, the killer had stayed one step ahead of his pursuers, and the two officers decided to drive further down the highway to Halifax in an effort "to get ahead of him," MacLeod told a public inquiry investigator in a Sept. 10, 2021, interview.

Hubley pulled into an Irving Big Stop in Enfield, about 35 kilometres north of Halifax, to fill his tank, according to his statement to the Serious Incident Response Team — the body that investigated the police shooting of Wortman.

As he stood at the driver's side of his unmarked Chevrolet Suburban, Hubley saw a small, grey car at the adjacent pump, and noticed blood running down the forehead of a man inside wearing a white T-shirt.

"I thought it odd that this person hadn't addressed the wound or tried to stop the bleeding. The look on his face was one of someone who had just been in a fight. He was breathing heavy with his mouth open and he was worked up ... This caused me to pay closer attention and I recognized him from the pictures I had seen," Hubley recalled.

He said he called out to MacLeod, "Benny, it's him," as he stood next to the open door of the driver's seat, with gas pumps and a distance of three metres separating him from the killer.

"He (the killer) reacted by jerking back while seated and immediately raised a silver-coloured pistol in my direction with his right hand. He was looking at me as he did this," says Hubley's statement.

MacLeod said in his interview he didn't initially think the person in the grey car matched the description of Wortman, who he thought was wearing a reflective vest.

But he said when he heard Hubley's comment identifying Wortman, "that obviously got me moving a little quicker." He recalled moving out of the vehicle and shifting around the front of the Suburban to get a better view of the suspect through the suspect's front windshield.

"I'm looking at this guy, he looks me directly in the eye and it's at that point he reaches, you know, with purpose, towards the right side of his vehicle ... and that's when I saw a silver and black pistol coming up with his right hand, and I made the decision at that point to fire," he said.

"I focused on the pistol right away. I knew that looked like an RCMP general duty pistol. I knew that Heidi's had been stolen," he said, referring to Stevenson.

MacLeod recalled that even after multiple shots from Hubley's pistol and his own carbine, Wortman was still lifting the pistol, so he continued firing at the suspect "until he was no longer a threat."

Hubley's statement says he moved behind the front of his car and used his portable radio to call in backup, with other emergency response officers responding quickly. He said two officers who arrived pulled Wortman out of the car and "secured him."

The officer checked on his handgun, noting he'd fired 12 of its 15 bullets at Wortman.The RCMP have earlier put the time of Wortman's death at 11:26 a.m.

By the time the two officers had arrived at the gas station, they’d already gone through harrowing hours as they responded to the emergency's earlier stages in Portapique.

MacLeod described it as being like a war zone, where he was asked — due to some training as a medic — to view bodies around the scene to check for signs of life.

During his hours in Portapique, Hubley went to 123 Orchard Beach Dr., where the perpetrator had killed Jamie and Greg Blair and shot their dog on April 18. The family's two children hid and then ran to a neighbour's house after the killer departed.

Hubley said he went to the residence and saw Greg Blair's deceased body, and the small, injured dog. The dog handler provided first aid to the pet, after being told by another RCMP officer, "it (the dog) was the only thing the kids of the people who were dead at the house had left."

He brought the dog to the nearest intersection with the highway and other officers contacted a veterinarian to treat the animal at a clinic.

In his statement, the RCMP dog handler recalled the impression the incident left with him about Wortman's vindictiveness. "He shot a family pet that could not have been a threat to him given its size," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2022.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version referred to Const. MacLeod first identifying the gunman when it was in fact Const. Hubley.