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A fire-destroyed property registered to the gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting, in Portapique, N.S., on May 8, 2020.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

A newly released statement from a senior Mountie in Nova Scotia says RCMP officers dispatched to apprehend an active shooter in Portapique last spring thought they were hearing gunshots long after the shooter fled the scene.

The lone gunman, disguised as a Mountie and driving a replica RCMP cruiser, killed 13 people in the village on the night of April 18, 2021, and went on to kill another nine people the next day before he was fatally shot by police at a gas station north of Halifax.

In an affidavit sworn on June 3, RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell says officers reported hearing gunfire in the rural enclave as late as 2:50 a.m. on April 19, 2020, even though the Mounties later confirmed a witness had spotted the gunman fleeing the scene more than four hours earlier.

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Campbell’s statement, submitted last week in response to a proposed class-action lawsuit, provides no explanation for the discrepancy, though there has been speculation the noises could have been coming from homes the gunman had set on fire, including his own.

The eight-page affidavit also reveals for the first time that officers on the scene thought they had spotted the killer carrying a flashlight just after 10:45 p.m., but they lost track of that suspect when the light was switched off and the person fled into the nearby woods.

As well, police faced further confusion 10 minutes later, when a witness told police there were multiple shooters in the area.

The senior officers’ statement says the person with the flashlight emerged from the woods around 2:20 a.m. and was cleared as a suspect by members of the RCMP’s emergency response team.

Campbell’s affidavit was filed with Nova Scotia Supreme Court on June 8 in response to a class-action lawsuit that has yet to be certified by the courts.

A law firm representing the families of victims is preparing two potential lawsuits.

One of the proposed proceedings, which names the RCMP and the Nova Scotia government, focuses on the police response to the killings. The second names the estate of the lone gunman.

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