NS mass killer may have shot himself as police closed in

Warning: The following story contains graphic details of violence that will disturb some readers.

HALIFAX—The perpetrator of the country’s worst mass killing may have shot himself in the head either just before or while police officers were riddling his body with bullets.

The “plausible” assessment was revealed Wednesday at the public inquiry into a massacre that took place two years ago when a gunman killed 22 people in northern Nova Scotia.

The post-mortem exam on gunman discovered—among many other gunshot wounds—two head wounds, the Mass Casualty Commission heard.

One of those, dubbed “Head Wound 2” in the post-mortem report, was determined to be “non-debilitating” by the medical examiner.

RCMP forensic experts believe that the wound was affected by Const. Heidi Stevenson in an earlier shootout with gunman Gabriel Wortman, during which she was killed, and after which he took her de la RCMP-issued pistol. He would be spotted by Const. Craig Hubley and Const. Ben MacLeod and killed at a gas station 40 minutes later.

The other head wound, dubbed “Head Wound 1”, was situated on the right side of the killer’s head, directly above the right ear.

“It appears plausible that Head Wound 1 was self-inflicted by the perpetrator immediately prior to or during Csts. Hubley and MacLeod’s discharge of firearms at the Enfield Big Stop, whereas Head Wound 2 was inflicted by Cst. Heidi Stevenson at the Shubenacadie cloverleaf,” wrote the commission in documents released Monday.

It does not appear that the potentially self-inflicted wound killed Wortman.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner Dr. Matthew Bowes, who performed the post-mortem exam on the gunman, told the commission in an earlier interview that because Head Wound 1 missed the brain stem, it was not necessarily the immediate cause of death.

Rather, Bowes said the cause of death was “multiple gunshots to the body, in particular the damage to the organs.”

Bowes agreed with the commission that the possibility that the perpetrator shot himself was quite credible.

The commission has deduced that the killer shot himself with Stevenson’s gun.

It’s a statement made largely on the basis that a bullet was missing from the loaded magazine of Stevenson’s gun — found in the killer’s stolen car — and RCMP members’ reports, post-shooting, of seeing “a Smith and Wesson pistol” or “Const . Stevenson’s pistol” in the perpetrator’s right hand before he was removed from his car.

Head Wound 1 showed stippling, small punctures and abrasions surrounding the wound, the result of unburned gunpowder being embedded in the skin. Stippling indicates that the gun that caused the wound was at close range — usually within two feet — of the target when it was fired.

But the wound also showed no soot, indicating that the gun was not in direct contact with, and was at least a few inches away from, the site of the wound when it was fired.

Bowes also noted the stippling was in a strange pattern—much larger than one would expect from a close-range shot. Bowes told the commission that he had not seen a stipple that large or spread out on a self-inflicted wound.

The shooter, who killed 22 people, burned multiple houses and terrorized much of Colchester County during his murderous 13-hour rampage over April 18 and 19 in northern Nova Scotia, was killed when he was spotted by police at a gas station in Enfield.

Hubley, who first spotted the gunman, was determined to have fired 12 9mm rounds at the gunman and MacLeod, who was riding with Hubley, fired 11 rounds from his carbine.

The post-mortem examination, in addition to the two head wounds, identified more than 25 “entrance-type” gunshot wounds to the torso and two more to the neck. Bowes also recorded seven to the right arm — though he noted that some of these may have passed through the arm to cause some of the chest wounds — and one to the left arm.


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