Police agencies throughout Nova Scotia received a warning in May 2011 that a man named Gabriel Wortman had a collection of guns and planned “to kill a cop,” reports CBC News.
Nova Scotia RCMP are not able to say what happened with the tip about the denturist who killed 22 people in the province—including an RCMP officer—in April.
The warning was received after Truro Police Cpl. Greg Densmore was approached by an unknown source who shared specific information about the location of Wortman’s guns and that he was possibly bringing a handgun when traveling between his Portapique, N.S. cottage and his Dartmouth home.
Densmore’s report was obtained by CBC News from the Truro Police Service following an access-to-information request. The report shows that the bulletin was spread across the Criminal Intelligence Service of Nova Scotia—an information network shared between police agencies.
There appear to be opposing ideas regarding who was responsible for taking action on the information.
Wortman’s Portapique cottage was in RCMP territory but his main Dartmouth residence was not, according to Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, a Nova Scotia RCMP spokesperson.
She said she is not sure if the tip was ever followed up on by the RCMP.
"I don't know what was done or what wasn't done at the time," she said
The Halifax Regional Police say that after receiving the tip, they interviewed relatives of Wortman’s and investigators eventually found that information about his weapons was not related to his Dartmouth property but to his cottage. The findings were then sent to the RCMP says Cont. John Macleod, a Halifax Regional Police spokesman.
However, Clarke noted that when the manhunt for Wortman began on April 18 in Portapique, the information from the 2011 bulletin was not readily available as it had been purged from the records. She added that such warnings are usually only kept by the force for two years.
When asked if the information would have helped officers during the shooting, Clarke said it was hard to say.
"I mean, it's hypothetical if there is something that could've been done to prevent this," she said. "I think myself and any number of people would want to know that. But I don't know."
The bulletin was brought forward on April 19 after an Amherst Police Service officer recognized the shooter's name in the notice from 2011 in his email. The information was given to his supervisor and then to the RCMP, says Amherst Police Chief Dwayne Pike.
"This is the largest mass [shooting] in Canada's history, and it's a piece of the story," MacNeil said during an interview.
"What piece that plays, I don't know. I'm not at liberty to speculate on that, but it's information that should be shared with the public."
The police received warnings two times in under a year about Wortman’s possible violent tendencies, documents show.
The bulletin says that Wortman was also investigated after “uttering death threats to his parents” in June, 2010. Information about his gun collection was also included in that investigation.
The file was investigated by the Halifax Regional Police but was closed with no charges laid, said its spokesperson.
In the 2011 bulletin, Densmore notes that the information was received on May 3 from an unnamed source noting that Wortman had previously “stated he wants to kill a cop.”
The tipster noted that Wortman was under “a lot of stress lately” and was beginning to have mental health issues. He was described as “becoming a little squirrely.”
"Mr. [Wortman] may also be in possession of several long rifles located at his cottage located at [address redacted]; these firearms are stored in a compartment located behind the flue," stated Densmore's submission.
"This information is from an uncoded and unproven source but had to be fanned out for officer safety just in case, so if any officers [have] dealings with Mr Wortman, they should use caution," wrote Densmore in an email on May 3, 2011.
The email also covered Wortman’s vehicles at the time which records say included six plated vehicles and one unplated one.
MacNiel said that bulletins like this are only submitted a few times a year. Usually when the Truro Police get that type of information the force treats it similar to a Crime Stoppers tip.
"We would open an investigation. We would open a file on it, we would assign an investigator and we would try to determine the validity of the information with an eye to criminal charges if they're warranted at the end of the day," MacNiel said.
He said the force's involvement ended after the tip was submitted because it wasn’t under Truro’s coverage area.
"We've never dealt with this gentleman. We've never investigated him other than we received this information from a member of the public, which our officer was, thankfully, engaged enough to say 'Hey, this is important. I'd better make note of it,'" he said.
But Clarke said that though the contents of the bulletin were “concerning,” similar ones are often received by RCMP about people in other jurisdictions or who are just going through theirs.
"This incident is massive, and it's going to take a lot of analysis to determine what, if anything, we can learn, how we can change, and I don't know that any of that is being discussed right now," Clarke said.
"Right now we're focused on the investigation and ensuring that the families are kept apprised of what's happening as the investigation develops."