Timeline of April 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting
The gunman was killed 13 hours after his rampage began
By Lyndsay Armstrong in Truro
The final report released Thursday into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting chronicles minute by minute how the tragedy unfolded.
After 9 p.m. on April 18, the killer’s rampage began when he violently assaulted his partner, Lisa Banfield.
Gabriel Wortman handcuffed Banfield in the back of his replica police cruiser. He told her he would kill her if she tried to run away.
He poured gasoline throughout the home they shared in Portapique, N.S., before lighting it and his warehouse on fire.
Banfield pulled off one handcuff, escaped through the front window and ran to nearby woods, where she hid overnight.
At 10 p.m. the killer drove his replica cruiser to his neighbours Greg and Jamie Blair’s house.
He shot and killed Greg Blair on the deck.
Jamie Blair instructed their two children to hide and called the police at 10:01 p.m.
She told police Wortman drove to her home in a replica police car and killed her husband.
Wortman fatally shot Jamie. The two children hiding in the home survived.
The gunman tried to start a fire by taking logs from the wood stove and scattering them around the house and by piling things on top of the propane stove, which he turned on.
About 15 minutes after their parents were killed, the Blair children fled the home because of the smoke. They ran next door to neighbour Lisa McCully’s house.
At about 10:08 p.m. McCully saw the fire at Wortman’s property and went outside to investigate. Wortman shot and killed her while driving away from the Blairs’ house.
The Blair children arrived at the McCullys around 10:16 p.m. and were let in by McCully’s children, who called 911.
The gunman drove his replica cruiser south to Joy and Peter Bond’s house and to the home of Aaron and Emily Tuck and Jolene Oliver.
He shot and killed five people at the two houses between 10:10 p.m. and 10:20 p.m.
Wortman retraced his route and drove north toward Dawn and Frank Gulenchyn’s house, where he arrived before 10:25 p.m.
He shot and killed them before setting fire to their home.
Neighbours Andrew and Kate MacDonald saw the fire at Wortman’s property and drove toward it to see what was going on. They called 911 around 10:25 p.m.
Wortman drove up to the MacDonalds’ car while they were on the phone with police and fired two shots at them. Andrew was shot in the shoulder and a bullet grazed his head. They both survived.
At 10:30 p.m. Wortman drove to the home of Joanne Thomas and John Zahl, which was right next to his property.
By 10:39 p.m. he had shot and killed them both and set fire to their house.
He left through a trail in the woods, driving the replica cruiser.
Corrie Ellison, who was in Portapique visiting his father, went outside to see what was going on after hearing gunshots and seeing flames.
At about 10:40 p.m., Wortman saw Ellison and fatally shot him.
After killing 13 people, Wortman drove to east to Debert, N.S.
He stayed overnight at Debert Business Park, where he arrived at 11:10 p.m.
On April 19 he left shortly before 5:45 a.m. and travelled toward Wentworth, N.S.
At 6:35 a.m. Wortman arrived at the home of Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod, where he is believed to have spent almost three hours.
He fatally shot the couple and set the house on fire.
Meanwhile in Portapique, at about 6:30 a.m., Banfield left the woods and sought help at a nearby home. She called police and told them about Wortman’s replica cruiser and the assault.
At about 7:55 a.m. police confirmed that the replica RCMP car was not among the vehicles found at his properties in Portapique.
At 8:44 a.m. Cpl. Heidi Stevenson asked RCMP operational communications if a media release with details of the replica cruiser would be issued to the public.
Around 8:50 a.m. in Wentworth, the gunman was leaving the McLeod-Jenkins home when he encountered Tom Bagley and shot and killed him.
At 9:12 a.m., police shared on Twitter and Facebook a warning that 51-year-old Wortman was the suspect in an active shooting investigation and that he was armed and dangerous. No information was shared about the replica police car.
Wortman travelled south on Highway 4, where he drove past Lillian Campbell, who was out for a walk.
The gunman turned the car around and fatally shot Campbell at around 9:30 a.m. before turning back and continuing south to Glenholme, N.S.
It wasn’t until 9:40 a.m. that the RCMP fully grasped that Wortman had escaped Portapique and was still killing people while driving a replica cruiser — according to the inquiry’s report.
At 9:47 a.m. Wortman and RCMP Cpl. Rodney Peterson crossed paths driving in opposite directions at the intersection of Highway 4 and Plains Road. Peterson broadcast his sighting on the radio.
Peterson travelled more than a kilometre further north before finding a spot to turn around, and drove south on the highway to try and catch Wortman. He was unsuccessful.
At 9:49 a.m. the gunman drove into Adam and Carole Fisher’s property just off the highway.
The Fishers hid and called police, because they recognized Wortman and had seen the RCMP Facebook post about the active shooting.
Unbeknownst to the Fishers and police, Wortman drove away at about 9:51 a.m. on Plains Road.
Shortly before 10 a.m., Kristen Beaton, a continuing-care assistant on her way to meet homecare patients, had pulled her car into a gravel pullout on the south side of Plains Road.
At about 10 a.m. Wortman pulled up beside the car and shot Beaton, who was pregnant.
Heather O’Brien was driving just 30 seconds behind Wortman when she pulled over about 260 metres from where Beaton had parked and spoke to a friend on the phone. She told her friend she had heard a gunshot.
Wortman drove up next to O’Brien’s car, got out and fatally shot her through her window.
After killing the women, the gunman continued driving southeast down Plains Road.
An RCMP tweet with a photo of Wortman’s replica police car was posted at 10:17 a.m. — more than 12 hours after Jamie Blair told police about the fake cop car.
Around 10:40 a.m. Wortman was spotted in Brookfield, N.S. and was believed to be heading south on Highway 2.
Wortman pulled up next to RCMP Const. Chad Morrison, who was stationed along the side of the highway, and fired three shots at the officer, injuring him. Morrison drove away and survived.
Const. Heidi Stevenson set off toward Morrison and Wortman’s last known location.
At 10:49 a.m. Wortman crashed head on into Stevenson’s car before the two exchanged gunfire.
Wortman fatally shot Stevenson and took her pistol and ammunition.
At 10:52 a.m. Joey Webber was driving when he saw the crashed cruisers and stopped to offer help.
Wortman forced Webber into the back seat of the replica cruiser where he shot and killed him. The gunman moved his firearms into Webber’s SUV before setting his replica cruiser and Stevenson’s cruiser on fire.
At about 10:55 a.m. Wortman drove south in Webber’s SUV on Highway 224.
Minutes later, the gunman passed denturist Gina Goulet’s home before making a U-turn and parking behind her house.
That morning, Goulet, who knew Wortman through work, told her daughter that a colleague had warned her to keep her doors locked because Wortman knew where she lived.
Goulet hid in the ensuite bathroom of her bedroom, but Wortman found her and fatally shot her.
He drove off in Goulet’s car, a grey hatchback.
At 11:24 a.m. the gunman pulled into the Enfield Big Stop for gas. About 30 seconds later, an RCMP police dog handler and an emergency response team member arrived.
Const. Craig Hubley saw and recognized Wortman and drew his gun as the killer raised a silver pistol.
Hubley and Const. Ben MacLeod fired multiple rounds, killing Wortman, who also shot himself in the head.
At 11:27 a.m., more than 13 hours after his rampage began, the killer was dead.
Banner image: RCMP investigators search for evidence at the location where Const. Heidi Stevenson was killed along the highway in Shubenacadie, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.