By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
On 19 April 2020, a gunman disguised as a police officer went on a 12-hour rampage in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, killing at least 17 people in what was gravely hailed as the worst act of mass murder in the country’s history.
Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old dental worker, was the man behind the deadly attack.
During his 12-hour ordeal, the gunman set fires to homes and shot people inside them – one of them being a police officer.
In the small, rural town of Portapique, about 100km north of Halifax, several bodies were found inside and outside one home, while bodies were found at other locations across the province.
Authorities believe the shooter may have targeted his first victims but then started to attack others at random.
According to police, during the rampage, the man was dressed in uniform as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and was seen driving a fake police vehicle.
The vehicle had been modified to bear a resemblance to a police vehicle, one which he “basically made himself”, as Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation informed.
Nevertheless, the fake police car was eventually involved in a crash about 80 kilometres south of Portapique, at which point the gunman moved into a silver Chevrolet SUV.
The gunman was not an officer or employee, nor ever had been, with the RCMP.
Officials said the police impersonator died after being arrested, during a standoff with officers.
According to the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia website, Gabriel Wortman was listed as a denturist – a person who makes dentures – in the city of Dartmouth, across the water from Halifax.
Canada Mourns as Premier of Nova Scotia Labels Incident as Canada’s Worst
In the aftermath of the incident, Nova Scotia Premier, Stephen McNeil, described the attack as one of the most mindless in Canada’s history.
“This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history,” Premier McNeil said.
Sharing a similar sentiment, Nova Scotia Commanding Officer Lee Bergerman labelled the mass murder as “incomprehensible” and identified the dead police officer as Constable Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and a 23-year veteran of the force.
“Today is a devastating day for Nova Scotia and it will remain etched in the minds of many for years to come,” Commanding Officer Bergerman said.
“It’s with tremendous sadness that we have lost Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force who was killed this morning while responding to an active shooter incident.
“Two children have lost their mother and a husband has lost his wife. Parents have lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.”
The Incidence of Mass Shootings in Canada
In Canada, mass shootings are relatively rare.
The country renewed its gun-control laws in 1989 after gunman, Marc Lepine, murdered 14 women and himself at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique college.
Prior to the Nova Scotia mass shooting, this had been the country’s worst attack in its history.
Now, the violent attack by Gabriel Wortman is said to be the most severe the country has seen in modern times.
In a written news release statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered the nation support as the citizens came to terms with the loss of families and victims.
“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,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
When can you Impersonate a Police Officer in NSW?
In NSW, by law, unless you are “impersonating” a police officer because you are partaking in it for solely satirical purposes, you are not permitted to impersonate a police officer.
In fact, if you pretend to be a police officer, or act in a way that would make someone believe you are a police officer, you can face severe penalties – including weighty fines, jail time, or even a criminal conviction.
Examples of this include if you were to call a person advising them you are a constable with the police force, flashing a police badge to someone and advising them you are an officer, or dressing up in a police uniform and carrying out tasks that an officer would normally do.
In NSW, it is an offence to impersonate a police officer.
If a person pretends to be a police officer, or does or says something that gives the impression that they are a police officer, they are guilty of an offence.
The maximum penalty for this ranges from $11,000 fine or two-years jail, or both, to a sentence of up to seven-years jail if it occurs in ‘circumstances of aggravation’.
Have questions? Call our friendly team to speak with our leading criminal lawyers in Parramatta & Sydney.