Update: Nova Scotia archbishop offers condolences after largest mass shooting

Local resident Dave Brown puts up a makeshift memorial for the community in Portapique, Nova Scotia, April 19, 2020, after a shooter went on 12-hour rampage that left at least 19 people dead. CNS photo/John Morris, Reuters

TORONTO (CNS) — With 19 deaths so far confirmed from the largest mass shooting in Canadian history, Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Anthony Mancini offered condolences to the families of those killed, particularly the family of RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson.

“Her death in the line of duty indicates the highest sacrifice that one can make on behalf of the citizens she served,” Archbishop Mancini said in a letter issued April 20 after a 51-year-old man went on a shooting rampage in Nova Scotia.

“Our prayers go out to all the members of her family, particularly her children, and to the fellow officers of her RCMP family, who mourn the loss of her life.”

Stevenson was the first victim of the weekend shooting spree identified by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She was a 23-year RCMP veteran, the mother of two and wife of teacher Dean Stevenson.

The archbishop sought to extend a word of hope to all Nova Scotians.

“Such a tragic event, involving the meaningless death of so many of our fellow citizens, has shocked us all,” he said, “adding more collective suffering to an already tragic time in our province, our country and our personal lives.

“I offer my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of all the victims and pray that they find some consolation in the expressions of love and caring being shown them in their time of sadness and grief.”

Recalling that it was still the Easter season, Archbishop Mancini urged Nova Scotians to remember “that life carries on beyond death.”

The shooting began in the beachside village of Portapique, Nova Scotia, about an hour-and-a-half north of Halifax and an hour south of Sackville, New Brunswick.

Police received calls about shots fired about 10 p.m. April 18. Witnesses said the gunman set fire to his house and several buildings on the property. Apparently dressed as an RCMP officer and driving a car painted to look like an RCMP cruiser, the shooter began seeking victims among his acquaintances in the area.

By 9 a.m. April 19, the RCMP had identified their suspect publicly, posted his picture on social media and warned people to stay in their homes with the doors locked. At some point that morning, the man abandoned his fake police car and began driving a silver Chevrolet Tracker SUV. The burned-out remains of the fake police car were found in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia.

Police exchanged fire with the suspect at an Irving Big Stop gas station in Enfield, an hour south of Portapique on Highway 102. Denture-maker Gabriel Wortman, the RCMP’s suspect in the shootings, was killed.

Later that day, the union representing RCMP officers confirmed that one of its members was killed and another injured.

Officials said the death toll was not definitive, because there were 16 crime scenes, including some that were burned.