Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is urging his mourning province to withhold their criticism of the RCMP and try to help investigators unravel questions around a gunman’s weekend rampage that claimed 22 victims.
The Premier acknowledged there is anger over the RCMP’s decision not to use the provincial emergency alert system during a 12-hour manhunt for the killer. But he asked people to be patient, and wait for answers.
“There’s a lot of people hurting in this province, there’s no question, and I get the desire why people want information, readily available, today,” he said, at a briefing on the province’s COVID-19 response.
“But we need to allow this process to happen. In due time, everyone will know exactly why it wasn’t used. I think we need to allow this investigation to happen.”
The Premier also urged Nova Scotians to co-operate with RCMP investigators who are trying to piece together the gunman’s movements, and possible motivation. A new tip line was created specifically for the killings.
“We have families suffering, we have communities suffering, our entire province, frankly, is suffering through the violent tragedy that hit our province last weekend,” Mr. McNeil said. “If there is any Nova Scotian, anyone, who has any information that they think may be valuable, please call that tip line.”
The RCMP said they need the public’s help as they continue an investigation that stretches over 16 crimes scenes and five communities spread over a huge swath of rural Nova Scotia.
“We’re looking for any information that could help with the investigation,” said Superintendent Darren Campbell of the Nova Scotia RCMP. “Anything you know, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem, could help us piece the puzzle together.”
Police said they set up the tip line, 1-833-570-0121, to manage the volume of calls coming in from the public passing on information about the shooting and potential sightings of the gunman on April 18 and 19.
There remain many unanswered questions for investigators. It’s still unclear what route the gunman – a 51-year-old denturist – took during the shooting rampage that began Saturday night and ended Sunday before noon, and how he evaded police and whether he had help.
Halifax’s Kelly Lunn, who has a cottage near Portapique, N.S., where the killings began, arrived at the blocked-off access point to Portapique Beach Road on Thursday with his wife and two teens to deliver a cardboard carafe of Tim Hortons coffee and snacks to the RCMP officers there. He told police about the “honeycomb” of back country roads he believes the shooter took that lead from Portapique to Wentworth, where four more people were killed.
“I can drive between here and Wentworth without ever standing on a piece of pavement, so that guy obviously knew all that. He planned it,” said Mr. Lunn who has snowmobiled, hunted and four-wheeled on this network of dirt roads that connect through the interior of Colchester County.
“This is something that this guy planned a long time ago. So that’s pure evil.”
Police say the gunman acted alone, but continue to probe whether he had help leading up to the crime. There’s a lot they don’t know, including around how he obtained his weapons, and why he had a list of people he targeted after he set off from his home in Portapique, N.S., in a mock police car.
Some victims appeared to have just been at the wrong place at the wrong time, like Joey Webber, who drove upon a police shootout in Shubenacadie and was killed by the gunman, who witnesses say stole Mr. Webber’s vehicle and then drove to the nearby house of Gina Goulet, a fellow denturist, killing her and stealing her car.
But even clarity on why the gunman did what he did, or how he chose his victims, won’t bring much peace to people mourning some of those lost in the mass shooting.
Jocelyn Smith, who grew up in Quispamsis, N.B., with Lisa McCully, a teacher killed by the gunman, said she doesn’t understand why her friend was killed, and knows she probably never will. She’s just trying to remember a vivacious, loving mother who was the life of the party, not the man who took her life.
“We’ll never make sense of it, no matter how much we know about the killer. It’s just heinous, it’s evil, and nobody deserved any of that,“ she said. “We just want to wake up from this nightmare.“
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