HALIFAX — There is an outpouring of grief across Nova Scotia today as the names of victims of a weekend mass killing begin to emerge, ranging from a nurse to a teacher to an RCMP officer.
The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union expressed his sadness at the loss of “one of our own” after obituaries were posted for Lisa McCully, a teacher at Debert Elementary School.
Paul Wozney referred to McCully as “a victim of the senseless violence” that started in Portapique, N.S., a community about 40 kilometres west of Truro, late Saturday.
He said she was known as a passionate teacher and “as a shining love” in the lives of her friends and family.
The union also noted the loss of Const. Heidi Stevenson, an “exemplary 23 year RCMP veteran who laid down her life responding to the call.”
Wozney noted Stevenson is the wife of Dean Stevenson, who teaches at Cole Harbour District High School, and loving mother to two children.
“There are no words to capture the loss Nova Scotia has suffered today. This is a devastating time for all communities affected across our province,” Wozney wrote. “Let’s reach out to those in our circle who have seen loved ones lost or injured and offer our love and support.”
Investigators are continuing to piece together one of Canada’s deadliest mass killings, which saw a man who at one point donned a police uniform slay 18 people as he travelled across northern Nova Scotia over the weekend.
Investigators have said the shooter, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, was killed after police intercepted him at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.
Darcy Dobson posted on Facebook that her mother Heather O’Brien, a nurse from Truro, N.S., was among the dead.
“The pain comes and goes in waves. I feel like I’m outside of my own body. This can’t be real,” Dobson wrote on Facebook.
“At 9:59 am she sent her last text message to our family group chat. By 10:15 she was gone. She drove down the same street in the same town she drives through every single day,” she said.
“She was kind. She was beautiful. She didn’t deserve any of this. To every single person suffering from this senseless tragedy please feel free to reach out as we are all forever connected in this horrible mess.”
She pleaded with friends and family not to let the shooting define her mother but to recall her qualities.
“This will be hard but it will not be Heather O’Brien’s defining moment! I want everyone to remember how kind she was. How much she loved being a nurse,” she wrote.
“The way her eyes sparkled when she talked to her grandchildren and the way she just loved Christmas. Let those things define her. Not the horrible way she died.”
RCMP say they were initially called to reports of a man with firearms in the small community of Portapique, N.S., on Saturday night.
There, officers found numerous people dead or wounded, both inside and outside a property. But Chief Insp. Chris Leather said that by the time police arrived, the shooter was gone.
An hours-long manhunt and eventual police chase ensued across a swath of the Maritime province, with officers providing periodic updates about the suspect’s whereabouts.
Leather said the killings appeared to be, “at least in part, very random in nature.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2020.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press