The gunman behind the mass shooting in Nova Scotia was assembling the pieces for the fake police cruiser used in his rampage more than a year before the deadly attack, newly released court documents say.
A heavily redacted RCMP application for a search warrant reveals how Gabriel Wortman used an online PayPal account to purchase equipment for the mock RCMP vehicle he drove in the April 18-19 killings that left 22 people dead in the province. An RCMP officer subsequently killed him at a gas station in Enfield.
The court documents were released Monday through a continuing legal effort from The Globe and Mail and other media outlets.
The documents also include more warnings from witnesses – and the gunman himself – about his paranoid behaviour in the early days of the global pandemic, as the 51-year-old denturist began stockpiling ammunition and significant amounts of cash.
In one e-mail obtained by the RCMP that was sent in March, about a month before the worst mass shooting in Canadian history, Mr. Wortman said he was preparing for the worst because COVID-19 would make people desperate “once the money runs out." He’d personally withdrawn $475,000 from the bank in preparation for what he thought would be the collapse of the financial system, one witness told police.
“Thank God we are well-armed," Mr. Wortman wrote. The grim comment is contained in the court documents that offer revealing insights into the gunman’s activities and behaviour. According to the RCMP, Mr. Wortman’s March 19 e-mail “talked about how the virus was huge and people have not dealt with something as big as it was.”
The court records also show that the gunman crossed the New Brunswick-Maine border multiple times in April and May of 2019, apparently to pick up police gear such as a siren, light bar and battering ram, which he had purchased online and had delivered to a U.S. postal box. He used companies such as Amazon, Kijiji and eBay to make his cruiser look as real as possible.
There’s also more evidence that warning signs surrounded Mr. Wortman long before his attack. The documents include statements from an unnamed friend of Aaron Tuck, one of the gunman’s neighbours and first victims. After the shootings, the friend told police that Mr. Tuck described violent altercations involving Mr. Wortman when he was drinking, and said he “would terrorize people.”
The man also described seeing a look-alike police vehicle in the man’s garage in 2019. Mr. Wortman told the man he was fixing up the fake cruiser to be used in “parades,” according to the document.
The RCMP have released few details about the firearms Mr. Wortman used during his 13-hour rampage, which started in the village of Portapique, N.S., on the night of April 18.
Having killed 13 people in the village, most of them friends and neighbours, he fled the area disguised as a Mountie and driving a vehicle that looked exactly like an RCMP cruiser.
The Mounties earlier confirmed that the killer had two semi-automatic handguns and two semi-automatic rifles, but they declined to release further details owing to their continuing investigation.
Gun-control advocates have said details about the firearms are important to the discussion about the federal government’s recent move to ban 1,500 types of military-style assault weapons.
However, the Mounties have confirmed that the gunman had a fifth firearm, which he took from RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson after he rammed his vehicle into her cruiser and then fatally shot her in an exchange of gunfire.
The RCMP warrant application includes fleeting references to the acquisition of weapons, but the redactions make it impossible to decipher how he obtained the four other weapons.
The documents say Mr. Wortman did not have any firearms registered on the Restricted Weapons Registration System, the Canadian Firearms Information System or something called the Cognos client application system.
The court records also contain references to e-mails between the gunman and Peter Griffon, the man who helped the killer create the decals for the mock RCMP cruiser.
Excerpts from e-mails found on Mr. Griffon’s cellphone indicate that on the morning of April 18, the day the killing started, Mr. Wortman told Mr. Griffon that he was going to go for a drive with his partner, whose name is redacted, to celebrate their anniversary. He also refers to unspecified work the two men would do the following day.
On July 26 and July 31, 2019, Mr. Griffon sent photos to Mr. Wortman showing a white car with RCMP decals on it. Previously released information confirms that the vehicle Mr. Wortman used to evade police on April 18-19 was purchased on July 3, 2019.
Mr. Griffon, who was on parole from prison at the time, later provided a statement to police describing how he had made the decals for Mr. Wortman’s vehicle. Previously convicted of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in 2017, Mr. Griffon’s parole was revoked when the National Parole Board found out about his work with Mr. Wortman.
With a report from The Canadian Press
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.