Ottawa, April 20 : A man disguised as a police officer went on a shooting rampage in Canada’s Nova Scotia province, killing 16 people, in the deadliest such attack in the country’s history, officials said, adding that the suspected gunman was also dead.
On Sunday, several bodies were found inside and outside a residence in the small town of Portapique, about 100 km north of Halifax, what police called the first scene, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) said in a news report.
Bodies were also found at other locations.
Overnight, police began advising residents of the town, already on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, to lock their doors and stay in their basements.
Several homes in the area were set on fire as well.
Police identified the man believed to be the shooter as Gabriel Wortman, 51, who was thought to live part-time in Portapique.
Authorities said he wore a police uniform at one point and made his car look like a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer.
Police first announced that they had arrested Wortman at a gas station in Enfield, outside Halifax, but later said he had died. It was not clear how, and they did not explain further.
RCMP spokesman Daniel Brien confirmed that 16 people had been killed in addition to the suspect, the CBC reported.
While they believe the attack did not begin as random, police did not say what the initial motive was.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said many of the victims did not know the shooter.
“That fact that this individual had a uniform and a police car at his disposal certainly speaks to it not being a random act,” Leather was quoted as saying in the CBC news report.
He added that police believe he acted alone, adding that gunfire was exchanged between police and the suspect at one point.
In an update on Sunday evening, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said the incident was not being considered terror-related at this time.
Lucki said she believed the shooter had an initial “motivation” at the beginning that “turned to randomness”.
“This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history,” the CBC report quoted Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil as saying.
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “As a country, in moments like these, we come together to support one another. Together we will mourn with the families of the victims, and help them get through this difficult time.”
The number of victims in the Sunday rampage exceeds the shooting at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in 1989, which killed 14 women and injured 14 others in 1989.