Canada mass shooting started with assault on girlfriend

Canada's worst mass shooting erupted from an argument between the gunman and his girlfriend, who survived the attack, police confirmed on Friday.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Supt. Darren Campbell said the weekend shooting rampage started with an assault by the suspect on his girlfriend and ended with 22 people dead in communities across central and northern Nova Scotia.

"She did manage to escape. That could well have been the catalyst of events," Campbell said.

Authorities are also not discounting the suspect planned some of the murders.

Campbell said the girlfriend hid overnight in the woods from the suspect, who has been identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman.

Police have said Wortman acted alone in the shooting spree that killed 22 people in several rural communities.

Campbell said they found 13 deceased victims in the rural community of Portapique, a quiet community of 100 residents where the suspect lived part time. He said when police arrived, they discovered a man shot. The man reported he was driving when someone in what looked like a police car shot him. He survived and was transported to hospital.

They were several homes on fire, including the suspect's, when police arrived in the community. Campbell said the suspect had a pistol that was acquired in Canada and several long barrelled guns that were obtained in the United States. Police found several dead in and outside homes in Portapique.

Authorities initially thought the suspect might have committed suicide and was in one of the homes that was on fire, he said.

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HALIFAX, CANADA - APRIL 20: Regional police investigators confer outside the Atlantic Denture Clinic April 20, 2020 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia ,Canada. The clinic was owned by the gunman, Gabrielle Wortman, who police say is responsible for Sundays killing spree that resulted in the death of 19, including Wortman. The rampage began late Saturday night in Portapique as well as several other rural communities in the Maritime province. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
HALIFAX, CANADA - APRIL 20: A Halifax regional police investigator is seen in a suite above the Atlantic Denture Clinic April 20, 2020 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia ,Canada. The clinic was owned by the gunman, Gabrielle Wortman, who police say is responsible for Sundays killing spree that resulted in the death of 19, including Wortman. The rampage began late Saturday night in Portapique as well as several other rural communities in the Maritime province. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, Nova Scotia, on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Royal Canadian Mounted Police say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove in a vehicle marked to seem like a patrol car, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)
ENFIELD, NS - APRIL 20: Children sign a Canadian flag at an impromptu memorial in front of the RCMP detachment April 20, 2020 in Enfield, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was the home detachment of slain RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who was one of 19 people killed during Sunday's shooting rampage, including the gunman. The rampage, which was Canada's worst mass killing, began Saturday night in Portapique, and continued through other rural communities in the Maritime Provinces. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
Visitors to a roadside memorial pay their respects in Portapique, Nova Scotia, on Friday, April 24, 2020. Royal Canadian Mounted Police say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murderous rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)
ENFIELD, NS - APRIL 20: A woman comforts her daughter after they placed flowers at an impromptu memorial in front of the RCMP detachment April 20, 2020 in Enfield, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was the home detachment of slain RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who was one of 19 people killed during Sunday's shooting rampage, including the gunman. The rampage, which was Canada's worst mass killing, began Saturday night in Portapique, and continued through other rural communities in the Maritime Provinces. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
DEBERT, NS - APRIL 20: A woman and her daughter place a heart on a fence at a growing memorial in front of the Debert School April 20, 2020 in Debert, Nova Scotia, Canada. Lisa McCully, a teacher at the school, was one of 19 people killed during Sunday's shooting rampage, including the gunman. The rampage, which was Canada's worst mass killing, began Saturday night in Portapique, and continued through other rural communities in the Maritime Provinces. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
ENFIELD, NS - APRIL 20: An impromptu memorial sits in front of the RCMP detachment April 20, 2020 in Enfield, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was the home detachment of slain RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who was one of 19 people killed during Sunday's shooting rampage, including the gunman. The rampage, which was Canada's worst mass killing, began Saturday night in Portapique, and continued through other rural communities in the Maritime Provinces. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 20 - The flag at City Hall in Toronto flies at half mast in honour of the victims of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia . April 20, 2020. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 20 - The Queens Park flies the flag of Nova Scotia in honour of the victims of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia . April 20, 2020. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comments on the shooting in Nova Scotia during a news conference April 20, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the death toll from an "evil" weekend shooting rampage in Nova Scotia had risen to at least 18. "Our country stands united in our effort to defeat a pandemic, to save lives and to help each other make it to a better day," he told a news conference."But yesterday we were jolted from that common cause by the senseless violence and tragedy in Nova Scotia, (where) a gunman claimed the lives of at least 18 people." (Photo by Dave Chan / AFP) (Photo by DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comments on the shooting in Nova Scotia during a news conference April 20, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the death toll from an "evil" weekend shooting rampage in Nova Scotia had risen to at least 18. "Our country stands united in our effort to defeat a pandemic, to save lives and to help each other make it to a better day," he told a news conference."But yesterday we were jolted from that common cause by the senseless violence and tragedy in Nova Scotia, (where) a gunman claimed the lives of at least 18 people." (Photo by Dave Chan / AFP) (Photo by DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
WENTWORTH CENTRE, NS - APRIL 20: A Wentworth volunteer firefighter douses hotspots near destroyed vehicles linked to Sunday's deadly shooting rampage on April 20, 2020 in Wentworth Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada. Two residents of the home as well as a neighbor were killed by a lone gunman during Canada's worst mass killing. Seventeen people including the gunman died during the rampage, which was scattered through several rural communities in the Maritime provinces. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
WENTWORTH CENTRE, NS - APRIL 20: Wentworth volunteer firefighters douse hotspots as an excavator digs through the rubble of a destroyed home linked to Sunday's deadly shooting rampage on April 20, 2020 in Wentworth Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada. Two residents of the home as well as a neighbor were killed by a lone gunman during Canada's worst mass killing. Seventeen people including the gunman died during the rampage, which was scattered through several rural communities in the Maritime provinces. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
WENTWORTH CENTRE, NS - APRIL 20: Wentworth volunteer firefighters douse hotspots as an excavator digs through the rubble of a destroyed home linked to Sunday's deadly shooting rampage on April 20, 2020 in Wentworth Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada. Two residents of the home as well as a neighbor were killed by a lone gunman during Canada's worst mass killing. Seventeen people including the gunman died during the rampage, which was scattered through several rural communities in the Maritime provinces. (Photo by Tim Krochak/Getty Images)
Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) tactical unit confer after the suspect in a deadly shooting rampage was neutralized at the Big Stop near Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, Canada, on April 19, 2020. - A gunman killed at least 10 people in an overnight shooting rampage across rural Nova Scotia, before being found dead following an hours-long manhunt, Canadian federal police said April 19. Earlier identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, the suspect had been on the run since Saturday night, when police were alerted to shots being fired in the small community of Portapique, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Halifax, capital of the Atlantic province. (Photo by tim krochak / AFP) (Photo by TIM KROCHAK/AFP via Getty Images)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Chief Supt. Chris Leather (L) and RCMP commanding officer Lee Bergman, deliver a news conference concerning the deadly shooting rampage near Portapique at RCMP headquaters in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, on April 19, 2020. - A gunman killed at least 10 people in an overnight shooting rampage across rural Nova Scotia, before being found dead following an hours-long manhunt, Canadian federal police said April 19. Earlier identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, the suspect had been on the run since Saturday night, when police were alerted to shots being fired in the small community of Portapique, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Halifax, capital of the Atlantic province. (Photo by tim krochak / AFP) (Photo by TIM KROCHAK/AFP via Getty Images)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators search for evidence at the location where Constable Heidi Stevenson was killed along the highway in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia on Thursday, April 23, 2020. 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. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)
A soldier talks with an RCMP officer at a checkpoint in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2020. The military has provided personnel, modular tents, lights, tables, chairs and generators to a number of locations in the province. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)
Friends and co-workers head from a memorial to health-care worker Heather O’Brien, a victim of this past weekend shootings, along the highway in Debert, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. RCMP say several people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went a murder rampage in Portapique, and other Nova Scotia communities. The alleged killer was shot and killed by police. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)
Police block the highway in Debert, Nova Scotia on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Canadian police arrested a suspect in an active shooter investigation after earlier saying he may have been driving a vehicle resembling a police car and wearing a police uniform (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers prepare to take a person into custody at a gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia on Sunday April 19, 2020. A suspect in an active shooter investigation is in custody in Nova Scotia, with police saying several people were harmed before a man wearing police clothing was arrested. Gabriel Wortman was arrested by the RCMP at the Irving Big Stop in Enfield, N.S., about 35 km from downtown Halifax. (Tim Krochak/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Campbell said at about 6:30am, Wortman's girlfriend emerged from hiding in the woods, called 911 and gave police detailed information about the suspect including that he was driving a mock police car and was in police uniform.

More than an hour later, police started receiving 911 calls more than 35 miles away. Campbell said the suspect killed three people he knew and set their house on fire.

He also shot a woman on the street and pulled cars over and shot and killed people, Campbell said.

He later shot and injured a male police officer in his car. The officer managed to escape and survived. Campbell then said there was a collision between a female officer's police car and the gunman's mock police car. He shot and killed the officer and took her gun. Campbell said he then killed a passerby and took their SUV.

He then drove to a house and killed a woman he knew before removing his police uniform and stealing her car. He then drove to get gas and was shot by a police officer who happened to be at the gas station refueling.

The suspect was shot to death at 11:26 on Sunday morning, about 13 hours after the attacks began.

"There seems to be a trail of individuals who had problems with Mr. Wortman," Campbell said.

Police have said Wortman carried out much of the attack disguised as a police officer in a vehicle marked to seem like a patrol car. Campbell said he had a few cars that police believe were former police vehicles. His home was destroyed by fire.

Campbell said his girlfriend is recovering and continues to cooperate with police.

John Hudson, who had known Wortman for about 18 years, said Wortman was sometimes openly controlling and jealous of his long-time girlfriend.

"I didn't see him hitting her or anything like that," Hudson said . "But I know they fought."

Hudson recalled a bonfire party about 10 years ago when an argument between the two left the woman locked out of their home in rural Portapique.

"I was with her, trying to get her stuff out of there," Hudson said. "People had been drinking ... and it was a crazy night ... and he didn't want her to leave, but he wouldn't let her in the house."

Wortman, who owned a denture practice in the city of Dartmouth, near Halifax, lived part time in Portapique, according to residents. His Atlantic Denture Clinic had been closed the past month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada. The country overhauled its gun control laws after Marc Lepine shot 14 women and himself to death at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique college in 1989. Before the weekend rampage, that had been Canada's worst mass shooting.

Two years ago Thursday, a man drove a van along a busy Toronto sidewalk and killed 10 people and injured 16. The suspect, who is awaiting trial, said he carried out the attack in retribution for years of sexual rejection and ridicule by women.

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