Police returned vehicle with human remains inside, families of N.S. shooting victims allege

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Two families of victims of the Nova Scotia mass shooting launch a class action project against the RCMP that questions not only the way the force handled the unleashing, but its actions in the weeks that followed.The trial covers a series of criticisms previously raised about the tragedy, including the police communication. But it also questions staffing levels, family notification, and alleges that a vehicle was seized, as evidence was later released to a family with human remains still inside.

The Province of Nova Scotia is also named as the defendant in this case.

Twenty-two people were killed by an gunman dressed up as an RCMP officer in an unleashing that began in Portapique, Nova Scotia, on April 18 and continued in several other rural communities the next morning.

“We think this procedure is very important,” said Sandra McCulloch, Patterson Law attorney in Truro, NS, in a telephone interview with CBC News Wednesday. “This has greater implications for Nova Scotia and our country as a whole.”

McCulloch represents Tyler Blair and Andrew O’Brien, who are named as plaintiffs in this case. Blair’s father, Greg, and stepmother, Jamie, were killed in Portapique. O’Brien’s wife Heather was shot dead near Masstown the next day.

Jamie Blair, left, and Greg Blair are shown in a family document photo. They were killed in the mass shootings in Nova Scotia. (Kelly Blair / The Canadian Press)

McCulloch said she heard the families of all but one of the victims, but would not comment on how many people will participate in the proposed trial, which must be approved by a judge before it can be tried.

“There have been many questions that have arisen since the events of April 18 and 19,” she said. “Many more questions than answers, and some of the answers that have been given have been less than satisfactory. ”

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The statement, filed Tuesday with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, alleges that the RCMP had not previously investigated the shooter, Gabriel Wortman, despite the warnings.

A CBC News investigation found that Truro police received advice in 2011 that Wortman wanted to “kill a cop.” The bulletin was shared between the Nova Scotia police force.

The RCMP initially said that it did not know, if any, what follow-up was, but then said that an officer had spoken to Wortman at his home in Portapique several times and had nothing found who worried him.

The RCMP reported that the ballot was purged two years later, in accordance with policy.

Heather O’Brien is shown in a photo on the GoFundMe page. O’Brien was passionate about his work as a nurse at VON and was very close to his children and grandchildren. (GoFundMe / The Canadian Press)

On April 18, when the first calls arrived in Portapique, the trial noted that the police had been informed by an anonymous victim that she had been shot by someone in what appeared to be a police vehicle. This interaction was also described in search warrant documents unsealed on May 19.

The statement said the force did not accept this information and did not warn the public that the shooter was posing as an officer before 10:17 a.m. the next day.

Lack of staff, lack of resources

The prosecution also alleges that too few officers were sent to the scene of the first attack in Portapique and that the RCMP did not establish a perimeter to contain the shooter. He said the RCMP in Colchester and Hants counties – which includes the communities ransacked – are understaffed and under-resourced.

The trial also criticizes police communications.

He said the public warnings sent by the police on Twitter were inadequate due to the low Internet coverage in the area and that they contained incorrect information about the location of the shooter.

He also reports that the RCMP deliberately misled O’Brien, revealing conflicting information as to whether his wife, a licensed practical nurse, was arrested and killed or was shot across the street.

Police blocked the highway in Debert, Nova Scotia on April 19. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press)

The trial indicates that the RCMP did not properly inform the families of the deaths and allowed the photos and videos of the victims to be posted on social networks before certain notifications.

O’Brien’s daughter Darcy Dobson told Maclean’s magazine his family knew something had happened to their mother, but it took them seven hours to receive a notification from the police.

“There is more than one family who is concerned about how this information got to them,” said McCulloch.

The lawsuit alleges that a vehicle was turned over to an unnamed family with gun casings and human remains still inside. A family member “had to clean the car himself”. He did not give more details.

Calls for inquiry

The RCMP and the Attorney General of Nova Scotia declined to comment on the prosecution.

The RCMP have stated that they have not yet been served with the claim and will not comment once it is.

“Our primary objective remains the ongoing criminal investigation and support for the victims of this tragedy as well as our members and employees,” said the RCMP in a statement.

Although there have been more and more calls for an investigation, one has yet to be called. McCulloch said she did not know if this was a factor in his clients’ decision to go ahead with the trial.

“Ultimately, the processes are different and the results of the processes are different. It is a process by which they can be actively involved and seek their own answers. ”

McCulloch said that while they are asking for damages, it is far too early to determine how much.

“With all the questions unanswered, it is really difficult to determine the depth of any of the claims. ”

She expects it will take between six months and a year before the lawsuit is certified as a class action and can begin to move forward.

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