The common-law partner of Nova Scotia mass shooter Gabriel Wortman is among three people who have been charged with ammunition offences.
Nova Scotia RCMP released a statement Friday afternoon charging Brian Brewster and James Blair Banfield of Sackville, and Wortman’s former common-law spouse of Dartmouth with unlawful transfer of ammunition under Section 101 of the Criminal Code – specifically, .223 calibre Remington cartridges and .40 calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
Police allege the offences took place between March 17 and April 18, the night Wortman went on his killing spree. The RCMP have determined the ammunition “was purchased and trafficked in Nova Scotia.”
The statement released by RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell states that the three “had no prior knowledge of the gunman’s actions on April 18 and 19.”
The charges arise as the RCMP comes under increasing scrutiny for its handling of the incident.
Court proceedings were undertaken by media outlets in May to unseal information used by the RCMP to obtain search warrants related to the case. Documents released so far have revealed that Wortman’s common-law partner escaped the gunman’s fury on the night of his killing spree and hid in the woods until early the next morning. Media outlets have declined to disclose her name for privacy reasons and reports she had long been the victim of domestic violence. Her identity is widely known and has been reported by locals. Her version of events as disclosed in court documents has also recently been questioned.
According to court documents unsealed so far, the RCMP was aware Wortman was armed and driving a replica RCMP vehicle early on in his rampage, but failed to notify the public until some 13 hours later. In all, 22 people, including RCMP officer Heidi Stevenson, would be left dead. The families of the victims have filed a lawsuit alleging negligence on the part of the RCMP. The federal government has ordered a public inquiry.
But much of what happened still remains under a cloud as media outlets continue to seek access to more than a dozen search warrant documents still under court seal.
A report aired on the CBC’s Fifth Estate recently reveals the RCMP failed to enlist the help of local police forces as Wortman drove from his cottage in Portapique to other locations in the vicinity gunning people down before he was shot and killed in a chance altercation with RCMP tactical officers at a gas station in Enfield. Wortman covered some 200 kilometres during his shooting spree.
The Fifth Estate report also reveals that police thought Wortman had killed himself sometime on the morning of April 19 and sent home some officers dispatched to the scene.
The RCMP has not offered public comment on the CBC’s revelations or other disclosures related to court documents, except for documents released this summer suggesting Wortman was running opioids over the Maine-New Brunswick border. In that instance, the RCMP issued a statement to provide “context,” saying that the information came from one source and had not been proven in court.
In the RCMP statement issued Friday, Campbell addressed issues around the release of information related to the case, but said the RCMP could not comment further because of legal and other proceedings.
“We recognize there may be outstanding questions about what transpired this past April. To ensure a fair trial for those who have been charged and with the public inquiry now ongoing, the most appropriate and unbiased opportunity to provide any additional information is to do so with our full participation in the inquiry. The RCMP will respectfully refrain from further commenting on these matters outside of the inquiry.”