RCMP Shots at Onslow Fire Hall in Mass Shootings in Nova Scotia Caused Witness ‘Total Chaos’

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Sharon McLellan was standing in her kitchen in Onslow, Nova Scotia, talking on the phone on a Sunday morning in April when she saw two men come out of some vehicle with long guns.She said one of them ran into the ditch in front of her house as the second man crouched behind a wooden trash can in the parking lot of the Onslow Belmont fire hall on the other side from the street. Within seconds, she heard gunshots.

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That morning, April 19, Nova Scotia police were looking for a suspect traveling between communities, shooting at strangers while disguised as an RCMP officer. It would end up being the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history – 13 hours after it began in nearby Portapique, 22 people had died.

But when shots rang out at the Onslow fire station, the man responsible for those deaths was not there. Two members of the gendarmerie fired at one of their own as well as at a spectator who was near the hall near a parked RCMP cruiser.

“They started shooting,” McLellan said, “and I started to panic because I thought the shooter was there. I had no idea what was going on. “

A visual description of where RCMP officers stood outside the Onslow Fire Hall on the morning of April 19. (CBC)

The fifth state examined the surveillance footage captured by the cameras in the room. It does not show the shooters, but reveals a hunched man wearing a fluorescent safety vest rushing into the fire hall at 10:21 a.m. local time.

This viewer declined to speak to CBC News about the incident.

Deputy Chief Darrell Currie of the Volunteer Fire Department was standing inside near one of the fire trucks when he heard gunshots.

“Someone came running through the front door shouting, ‘Take cover! Take cover! or “Get off! Or “Shots!” – something to that effect. And then we took cover as best we could, ”he said. the Fifth State.

A man who was outside the fire station ran inside at 10:21 a.m., when witnesses say gunshots started. (Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade surveillance cameras)

“These are all near misses”

Surveillance footage shows that seconds later an RCMP officer stationed in front of the room stood with his hands raised beside his vehicle.

No one inside or outside the room was injured. But bullets strewn the facing of the room over a distance of several meters. The shots went through one of the large bay doors and punctured the windshield, fender and engine of a fire engine.

Gunshots also pierced an electronic welcome sign near the road, over 60 meters from where the cruiser was parked, as well as a granite monument at the entrance to the building.

McLellan said she later counted 32 bullet holes in the building.

“These are all near misses. [were] people in there, ”she said.

The repair of the siding, equipment, monument and sign damaged by the gunfire cost $ 39,000. Fire Chief Greg Muise said The fifth state the RCMP dealt with the bill.

“A fire truck saved our lives – that’s my feeling,” Muise said in an interview. “I’ve been in the game for 39 years now and I’ve never experienced anything like this, and that’s what makes me angry. “

Fire Chief Greg Muise said the call for help from his own station was the worst call he had answered in his decades-long career as a volunteer firefighter. (Steve Lawrence / CBC)

The RCMP refused to answer questions from the Fifth State on mass shootings. The force returned the Onslow incident to the police monitoring agency in April.

Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) still investigating what happened and why exactly the two officers fired. SIRT Director Felix Cacchione said they have waited months for bullets and guns to be analyzed in a crime lab.

CBC previously reported that confusion over the cruiser and a safety vest, similar to the one worn by the mass shooter that morning, incited the blows.

Fire station used as a sanctuary

This April morning, the fire station was being used as a safe gathering place for people who could not return to their homes in Portapique, as police remained at the scene of 13 murders and multiple structure fires.

The RCMP officer stationed outside the lobby to protect the evacuees usually worked further east in Pictou County, and the two officers who fired in his direction worked in another detachment, the Fifth State has learned.

Surveillance footage shows the RCMP officer stationed outside the fire hall with his hands up at 10:21 a.m. (Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade surveillance cameras)

CBC News has not been able to confirm the identity of the RCMP officers.

Surveillance footage shows that seconds after Pictou’s officer raised his hands, one of the officers who had fired advanced towards him with his long gun pointed at the ground. They seemed to be exchanging words, as the second officer made a loop behind the building on foot.

About three minutes after the shots rang out, the two officers left.

That morning, Muise had opened the room at the request of a Colchester County official so that people forced to leave their homes could stop by to register for hotel rooms and other aids.

After hearing the gunshots, Muise and Currie spent about an hour squatting behind tables inside the lobby alongside a man whose family member was killed the night before.

The officer who was parked outside briefly walked inside and asked if everyone was okay, firefighters said. They said the officer did not explain what happened or say whether the danger had passed.

None of the members of the gendarmerie who fired spoke to the people who were hiding there. Surveillance video showed one of them entered the lobby for a few seconds and then left.

Sharon McLellan says she counted 32 bullet holes at the fire station. Repairing the damage cost $ 39,000 and firefighters say the RCMP footed the bill. (Submitted by Sharon McLellan)

‘We didn’t know what was going on’

Across the street, McLellan remained inside her house, confused and scared.

She said she only realized the two men were law enforcement when she spotted the word “police” on the back of their black clothes. She locked her doors and hid inside her house, thinking they had shot the Portapique shooter.

“It was total chaos. Total chaos, ”she said. “We didn’t know if the shooter was still there somewhere… we didn’t know what was going on.

From inside the room, Currie took to Twitter for information. At the same time, both officers were firing – 10:21 am Nova Scotia RCMP tweeted that the shooter was “currently in the Central Onslow Debert area”.

“Based on the RCMP’s Twitter feed and the shot from our room, the obvious assumption was that the shooter was in the area,” Currie said.

The group inside the room did not venture outside until more than an hour later, after learning that the RCMP had taken a suspect into custody.

It was then that the RCMP shot and killed the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, at a gas station 40 miles away in Enfield – nearly 13 hours after the rampage began.

Within hours, police confirmed their suspect was dead.

That afternoon, McLellan ventured to the fire hall and spoke to the officer stationed there to find out more about what had happened.

“He was very shaken up,” she said. “He actually told us, which really broke my heart, that it was his day off and he was getting ready to go to work, his little guy said to him, ‘Daddy, don’t go to work. today, ‘and he said,’ Oh, I’ll be back before you know it, mate. ‘ ”

This image from surveillance cameras at the Onslow Fire Hall shows what appears to be an RCMP cruiser with a push bar passing through the room at 10:07 a.m. on April 19. It was probably the shooter, as RCMP vehicles in Nova Scotia do not have the same equipment on their front bumpers. (Onslow Belmont Fire Department)

RCMP cruiser passed earlier

Later, when firefighters reviewed their security footage, they discovered that at 10:07 a.m. – 14 minutes before the fire hall was filmed – what appeared to be an RCMP cruiser with a black push bar on it. the front bumper was passing their lobby but didn’t. Stop. Firefighters think it was Wortman, as actual RCMP cars in Nova Scotia do not have push bars.

It is not known if the gendarme parked outside the fire station, with his car facing the road, saw the passing cruiser or if anyone else reported that the suspect was in the area. .

Seven months later, the volunteer firefighters are still shaken by the experience. No one ever explained to them why the two RCMP officers felt it necessary to shoot across the parking lot or what information they had at the time.

“I think everyone deserves an explanation, and I guess someday we’ll get it, I don’t know,” Currie said. “I hope we do. “

Deputy Fire Chief Darrell Currie was in the bay with the fire trucks when he heard gunshots. He took to Twitter for information as no one had come inside to explain what was going on. (Steve Lawrence / CBC)

The two men said the psychological impact of this close call was difficult. Muise said he struggled to know that although he tried to help people by opening the room, he ended up putting them in danger.

“It was supposed to be a comfort zone – most fire stations are comfort zones,” he said. “I’m living day by day right now, just hoping the days will be better. Many days are not. ”

McLellan said she always thinks about what happened whenever she looks around her yard at the fire hall.

” It was a mistake. They just should never have done what they did, obviously, ”she said. “I think they should have to answer all the questions everyone has. I mean we pay the [RCMP], they work for us.

“They didn’t say anything… I don’t think that’s fair. I really don’t think that’s fair. “



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