|Constable Heidi Stevenson RCMP|
As those of you who have read my books know, Nova Scotia is a special place for me. Two of my novels, both Westward: The Novel and The Granite Rock have large sections that take place in various locations in Nova Scotia. For many reasons, the province and many places within the province, are near and dear to my heart.
Nova Scotia is presently enduring the same challenges the rest of us are in terms of COVID-19 lockdowns. Many of their businesses are closed, and there is as much concern and trepidation about the future there, just as we have here in the US. Sadly, this week Nova Scotia was given something else about which to be concerned, and now, about which to grieve.
This week, a fifty-one year old man, named Gabriel Wortman, a talented denturist who owns two branches of his business in both Halifax and in Dartmouth became a wanted man. Wortman was described by those who knew him as an "odd bird". A friend says he "was not treated well in college". On the surface, life seemed good for Gabriel Wortman. He was a respected denturist and a millionaire. He was affable and respected by the elderly who comprised many of his customers. He owned quite a luxurious home on the ocean , north of Halifax, on the Bay of Fundy. He owned multiple properties he apparently rented to others in the area. When asked about him, people who knew him said that he enjoyed "doing things for others". This certainly seems to be true. In 2014, he appeared on Canadian television, not only explaining the basics of state of the art dentures to the Canadian public, but as a consequence of providing a free pair of dentures to a woman who had recently lost all her teeth to cancer treatment. He also was an obsessive collector of Royal Canadian Mounted Police memorabilia. People in his high school thought the 6'3" man would likely become a member of the RCMP. He also, in the present day, was a hobbyist who restored RCMP vehicles. The police say that he is believed to have been an alcoholic. When pressed, people who knew him alluded to a jealous streak he had with regard to his girlfriend, and to an altercation which occurred with friends years ago. They admitted that he had "a bit of an obsessive personality".
For some inexplicable reason this week, Gabriel Wortman, dressed up as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and drove a car he had fashioned to look like a current day RCMP cruiser. His exact movements are still being pieced together by police. At the beginning of his crime spree, he had only a long gun. A pistol is extremely difficult to obtain in Nova Scotia, unless you are current and active law enforcement. Wortman began a twelve hour spree in which he killed his ex and her new boyfriend, and then began to kill clusters of those at multiple crime scenes across Nova Scotia who were clearly unknown to him. He killed Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23 year veteran of the RCMP who was not only a highly respected officer, but a wife, a mother of a son and a daughter and who was a daughter herself, and who had answered the call which concerned gunfire. Without providing too much detail here, he intentionally executed her, and then took her service weapon. He went on to kill parents in front of children. He killed a pregnant woman and a seventeen year old girl. For twelve hours, he continued the pattern of going to doors in uniform, killing those who answered, and then torching their homes. He apparently continued, taking the car of the RCMP constable he had killed. Thus far, the RCMP have discovered sixteen crime scenes, and we do not yet know, since he chose primarily rural locations, if they have located all of the people he has killed. The killings continued until he stopped in a gas station well known to me, at the Stanfield Airport in Halifax, where he encountered police, and he fired at them. He was ultimately killed by police who could not let him proceed any further.
Most everyone has lost an ex and had them find happiness with another person. Most of us do endure a period of time in our lives where we weren't the most popular person on the block, often while we are growing up. Some of us struggle with substance abuse, and for many it is alcoholism. All of us are presently stressed by being locked down, unable to go anywhere, and by worries that we could become ill with COVID-19. Most everyone, millionaires AND the rest of us endure a background worry that we could lose homes and businesses as a result of a protracted COVID-19 shutdown. Yet, with all of that, we wouldn't dream of hurting another person, let alone twenty-three people who were remarkably consistent in their own desires to serve humanity. Wortman killed parents, a constable, nurses, teachers, firemen, and another denturist. Most of them were people who did not know him. All of them will be sorely missed by those who love them.
What happened to Gabriel Wortman which caused him to morph from the affable odd man who reportedly spoke so gently to elderly people and who happily provided, repaired, and relined their dentures who became an efficient unmerciful killing machine over twelve long hours to people who were already afraid and locked in their homes ?
Why is this important, you ask ? Because in the face of lockdowns and the stresses endured by people worldwide just now, we need to be better at identifying those who could slide into a psychotic break that would allow them to commit such acts. Justin Trudeau says he plans to further restrict firearms in Canada. What good would that do ? The weapon used to kill many of the people was the service weapon Wortman took from the constable after executing her. Wortman himself was already prohibited from owning a firearm of any kind due to charges from 2001, where he was ordered to have anger management counseling. It's a shame Wortman didn't meet any armed opposition whatsoever. Perhaps the number killed could have been limited to three, or six, rather than twenty-three people. Perhaps tightening guns further in Nova Scotia takes things in the wrong direction. After all, criminals don't observe gun restrictions, just as this man didn't. Guns aren't the problem. Inadequate care and supervision of the mentally ill is the problem.
My family and I send most sincere condolences to our family, friends, and the people of Nova Scotia who have been directly impacted by these shootings and these arsons. May God bless each of you during this very difficult time.