Nova Scotia shooting investigation reveals new problems with RCMP

HALIFAX-

The investigation into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia uncovered two new RCMP errors that delayed warning the public that the killer was driving a replica police cruiser.

In both cases, the Board of Inquiry concluded that the failures could not be adequately explained, although it offered some theories as to what was wrong.

The inquest heard that on the night of April 18, 2020, officers were dispatched to Portapique, Nova Scotia where they discovered an active shooter had killed several people and burned down several homes. In all, 13 people were murdered in Portapique that night.

But early the next morning, the killer had still not been found. Investigators were unaware he was driving a car that looked exactly like a marked RCMP patrol car when he escaped down a side road the night before.

Gendarmerie received a full description of the vehicle after the killer’s wife emerged from hiding in Portapique at 6:30 a.m., and relatives of the woman provided a photo of the vehicle, which was forwarded to the RCMP at 7:30 a.m. h 27.

But that photo wasn’t shared with the public until nearly three hours later, a fact that has been the subject of much speculation and public outrage.

In a summary of evidence released on Tuesday, the investigation revealed for the first time that the photo was to be immediately forwarded to Lia Scanlan, director of strategic communications for the RCMP, but something went wrong.

In a previous interview with commission investigators, RCMP Staff Sgt. Addie MacCallum said he forwarded a photo of the killer and a photo of his replica car to Scanlan before 8 a.m. He also recounted how he specifically asked if she had a picture of the car, and she said no.

“So I sent him a picture of the car,” MacCallum told the commission.

The commission later determined that the photo of the killer had arrived at Scanlan, but the photo of the car went elsewhere. The summary of evidence, known as the foundational document, says investigators found MacCallum sent a second email with the two photos at 8:10 a.m.

“It is not known whether the 8:10 a.m. email and attachment was received by Lia Scanlan,” the document states. ‘Ms Scanlan told the Mass Casualty Commission that she was not aware of the attacker’s replica RCMP police car until 8am’

The notes Scanlan took that day say nothing about the photo of the car.

At 8:54 a.m., RCMP posted a tweet containing a description and photo of the killer, along with confirmation that the 51-year-old was armed and dangerous. There was no mention of the vehicle.

Previously released documents and testimonies confirmed that there were discussions between senior RCMP officers who believed that releasing information about the replica vehicle could cause public panic and put police at risk. .

“Whether or not there was a decision made at command post to delay the release of information on the RCMP cruiser replica, it appears that preparations for such a release were underway shortly before 9 a.m. morning April 19, 2020,” the foundation document reads. .

It was then that the cap. RCMP Public Information Officer Jennifer Clarke emailed Scanlan to provide details of the vehicle. Clarke was told to “do something together” for MacCallum’s approval.

At 9:40 a.m., Clarke sent a draft tweet with a photo of the vehicle to MacCallum, but he did not respond. MacCallum had left the command post in Great Village, Nova Scotia, to join the pursuit of the killer, who had been spotted in Wentworth, Nova Scotia, where he had fatally shot Lillian Campbell as she was doing his morning walk.

Clarke then contacted Master Sgt. Steve Halliday, who approved the tweet at 9:49 a.m. But the tweet wasn’t sent until 10:17 a.m., 28 minutes after Halliday granted permission. No explanation is provided in the base document.

The Gendarmerie, however, was facing a major crisis at the time. Shortly after 9:30 a.m., a series of 911 calls confirmed that the killer had resumed his rampage. Shortly after RCMP learned of Campbell’s death, they were told a body had been found near a burning house in West Wentworth, Nova Scotia, about four miles away.

And just after 10 a.m., police learned of the shooting deaths of Heather O’Brien and pregnant Kristen Beaton. Both were killed on Plains Road in Debert, N.S.

On another front, the commission is looking at what happened after 9:11 a.m. when Chief Superintendent. Chris Leather, the RCMP’s second-in-command in the province that morning, sent an email requesting a copy of an internal alert sent to police about the suspect and his car.

According to the commission, an investigation is underway into Leather’s role “in connection with the disclosure of information about the RCMP cruiser replica.”

In a previous interview with the commission, Scanlan explained that Twitter has become the RCMP’s primary means of communicating with the public over the past eight or nine years. She said she used Twitter to let the public know in June 2014 when a man shot and killed three Mounties in Moncton, New Brunswick, and he was at large for 28 hours.

The RCMP have been criticized for using Twitter to alert the public during the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, as the social media platform is not popular among those who live in rural areas and requires constant monitoring to be effective .

When two constables shot the killer at a gas station north of Halifax at 11:26 a.m., the RCMP tweeted at 11:40 a.m. saying “the suspect in the active shooter investigation is now in custody” .

Scanlan said the term “in custody” was used because that’s what the communications team was told at the time.

“We didn’t care,” Scanlan said in his September 2021 interview. “We were just told it was over, he’s in custody…so we shut him down.” It wasn’t like waiting, let’s confirm he’s dead. »

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 7, 2022.

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