At least 18 people were killed when a 51-year-old gunman went on a shooting rampage in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, authorities say. The victims were killed between late Saturday night, April 18, and early Sunday, April 19, before the shooter was killed by officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The victims included people who appear to have been picked at random, as well as some who knew the gunman, officials said Sunday at a press conference.
Two police officers were shot, and one, RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, was killed. The other officer, Constable Chad Morrison, is expected to survive. Family members have identified some of the victims who have been killed: Lisa Mccully, Jamie Blair, Greg Blair, Heather O’Brien, Kristen Beaton, Gina Goulet, Tom Bagley, Jolene Oliver, Emily Tuck, Aaron Tuck, Dawn Madsen Gulenchyn, Frank Gulenchun, Lillian Hyslop, Alanna Jenkins, Sean McLeod, Corie Ellison, Joey Webber, John Zahl and Elizabeth Joanne Thomas.
Authorities said they are still working to determine exactly how many people were killed and how many were injured during the rampage. The official number of victims is 18, but family members have identified 20 people who have either been confirmed dead or are missing and presumed dead. Investigators are also working to figure out the motive for the attacks. This article will be updated below to include the names, photos and stories of the victims as they are identified.
The shootings stretched across the province of Nova Scotia, beginning in Portapique, where the gunman lived, and ending at a gas station in Enfield. Police said there are at least 16 crime scenes. The man identified by police as the lone shooter worked as a denturist in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and was a New Brunswick native. He was dressed in an imitation RCMP uniform and driving a vehicle made to look like an RCMP cruiser, according to police.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman told reporters at a Sunday press conference, “Today is a devastating day for Nova Scotia and it will remain etched in the minds of many for years to come. What has unfolded overnight and into this morning is incomprehensible and many families are experiencing the loss of a loved one. That includes our own RCMP family.” She added, “As Nova Scotians, we have to do what we are known for and come together in a time of need and support each other.” Bergerman said, “The impact of this incident will extend from one end of the province to the other.”
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said in a statement, “I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. Words cannot console the families affected by what has transpired over the last 24 hours.”
These are the victims of the Nova Scotia shootings who have been identified so far:
Constable Heidi Stevenson
Constable Heidi Stevenson served as an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for more than 23 years, RCMP officials said Sunday at a press conference. Stevenson is survived by her husband and two children, a son and daughter.
“Heidi answered the call of duty and lost her life while protecting those she served,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman told reporters. “Earlier this afternoon I met with Heidi’s family and there are no words to describe their pain. 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. Heidi’s family is a part of the RCMP family and we will embrace and support them in the days and weeks and months ahead.”
Stevenson served at times as a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia RCMP, and as a school liaison officer. A photo from 2015 posted to the RCMP’s Facebook page showed Stevenson walking in a crosswalk near a school flanked by several young students. In the comments, a former RCMP police trainer wrote, “Heidi was one of my students when I taught at the RCMP academy in Regina. She is a great example as an officer for the RCMP.”
“It’s a heroic decision to dedicate your life to the safety of Canadians and then it’s only more so if you end up giving an ultimate sacrifice as this member did today,” Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Federation, the union for RCMP officers, told The National Post.
On her Facebook page, Stevenson can be seen with her husband and kids, on family trips and at youth sporting events. On April 11, Stevenson posted a message about social distancing: a picture of a stuffed bear pressed against her face. In the caption she wrote, “Too close, bear… but I still appreciate the hug! (Now go wash your paws!)”
Lisa Mccully was a teacher at Debert Elementary School in Debert, Nova Scotia. She was identified as one of the victims of the shooting spree by her sister, Jenny Kierstead. Kierstead wrote on Facebook, “Our hearts are broken today as we attempt to accept the loss of my sister, Lisa Mccully, who was one of the victims of the mass shooting in Portapique last night. Our condolences go out to the other family members who are affected by this tragedy. Thank you for your support, it’s a hard day.” Mccully is also survived by her husband and her two children, a son and a daughter.
Mccully had been posting often on her Facebook page about missing being at her school and with her students during the coronavirus pandemic. She taught grades 3 and 4 at the elementary school. She changed her Facebook profile photo to include a meme saying, “I’m an educator, I miss my kids. We are in this together!”
A childhood friend wrote on Facebook, “She was an incredible human, my heart breaks for her children and her family…”
Mccully was a volunteer at the Berwick bible camp. One of the camp’s leaders wrote on Facebook, “Dear campers. I am sure you are all in shock and deep grief as we hear the news about Lisa Mccully (Kierstead). So many of our children had the privilege of having Lisa as their Oxley Youth leader. It is an unfathomable act that brought us to this point. God never promised that bad things wouldn’t happen (evil does exist) but that God would never leave us.”
Jamie Blair & Greg Blair
Jamie Blair and Greg Blair were identified by a family member as two of the victims killed in the shooting. Jessica MacBurnie wrote on Facebook, “Two beautiful souls were lost today ? … and many more. I have absolutely no words for the heartache my family & many others are going through. This was such a careless act, & many who should have never lost their lives. My heart is breaking for my family, my heart is breaking for everyone else suffering through this tragedy. My family has been through so much, no one should have ever had to deal with this. I love you both so much, & sending all my love to my family & every other families who lost someone today.”
The couple, who had been married since 2014, is survived by their young children. Greg Blair worked at G.B. Gas & Energy, according to his Facebook profile. In 2015, Jamie Blair wrote on Facebook about her husband, “Happy Father’s Day to the best father and husband a girl could ask for! Hope you enjoyed your day Greg Blair.”
Heather O’Brien was a nurse and business owner who was killed while driving to work, her daughter said in a Facebook post. Darcy Dobson said Sunday on Facebook, “A Monster murdered my Mother today. Murdered her, without a second thought. The pain comes and goes in waves. I feel like I’m outside of my own body. This can’t be real.” Dobson said her mother sent her a text message at 9:59 a.m. to their family group chat and was dead by 10:15 a.m.
“She drove down the same street in the same town she drives through every single day. She was kind. She was beautiful. She didn’t deserve any of this,” Dobson wrote. “Every single person suffering from this senseless tragedy please feel free to reach out as we are all forever connected in this horrible mess. To all of you kind people who have reached out to myself and my family today please know I am reading, it’s all just very overwhelming.”
Hold your loved ones a little closer. Pick up the phone. Call your mom. Tell her you love her! 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. 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.
According to her Facebook page, O’Brien owned Heart’s Haven Holistic Healing and was a native of Nova Scotia. She was born in Debert and lived in Truro. O’Brien had changed her Facebook profile picture to a message about COVID-19 that read, “I can’t stay home, I’m a health care worker.”
The Victoria Order of Nurses wrote on Facebook, “O’Brien was a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), wife, mother and grandmother. She shared her deep caring of others as a VON nurse for nearly 17 years.”
Kristen Beaton was identified as one of the victims of the shootings by the Victoria Order of Nurses. In a statement on its website, the VON said, “Beaton was a Continuing Care Assistant, and a young wife and mother. Kristen began work with VON nearly six years ago and like Heather, was a caring and compassionate member of the VON team.”
The VON’s president and CEO, Jo-Anne Poirier, added, “All of our frontline care providers are heroes. Yesterday, two of those heroes, Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton, were taken from their families, and from VON. We mourn their loss, and we mourn for their families.” Like O’Brien, Beaton was on her way to work when she was killed.
Beaton, from Truro, Nova Scotia, is survived by her husband and young son, according to her Facebook page. Her husband, Nick Beaton, wrote a Facebook message asking for people to remember her by supporting health care workers fighting against COVID-19:
We need to be her voice now. So please for Kristen’s sake protect the ones who are protecting us. She cried every day before and every day after work scared to bring this COVID home to her son she loved more than I could even imagine anyone could love one person..this wouldn’t of changed the outcome of yesterday but she wouldn’t of been stressed to the max just doing a job she truly loved. So if there’s something you want to do for her, us her coworkers be Kristen Beaton voice and get the workers their PPE to protect themselves.
Nick Beaton included a link to Project Frontlines, a group helping nurses and health care providers in Nova Scotia.
Penny Marchbank”A beautiful human being was lost yesterday and this community will never be the same. This family were the most amazing neighbours, and those of us close to them have watched them marry , start a family and settle into a wonderful family life. … Kristen Beaton however will live on with all of the wonderful things she has done in her short lifetime and the thousands of lives she has effected in so many loving and wonderful ways. She was an amazing mother, wife daughter and had so many friends who looked out for her and loved her completely.”
Gina Marie Goulet
Gina Goulet worked as a denturist in the small town of Shubenacadie, according to her Facebook profile. She wrote on Facebook she wrote, “Over 28 years creating. My biggest compliment is your smiles! I am grateful.”
Goulet’s daughter, Amelia Butler, told The Globe and Mail she survived cancer twice, loved to fish, travel and dance. “She really loved life. She was a fighter,” her daughter told the newspaper.
A friend, Michelle Anthony, wrote on Facebook, “When you hear her name, when you hear of this tragedy…see her face, her smile. This is what I want you to remember. She was a spit fire….and one of the strongest women I know.”
Tom Bagley was a former firefighter who rushed to help his neighbors as they were being attacked on Hunter Road in Wentworth, according to his daughter. Charlene Bagley wrote on Facebook, “This beautiful soul was taken from me yesterday so unnecessarily I can’t even comprehend it. He died trying to help which if you knew him, you knew that was just who he was all the time. I know he meant something to so many people.”
Jolene Oliver, Emily Tuck & Aaron Tuck
Aaron Tuck was killed with his partner, Jolene Oliver, and daughter, 17-year-old Emily Tuck, according to Oliver’s sister, Tammy Oliver-McCurdie. She wrote on Facebook, along with a photo of her three family members on a walk, “Taken during the Nova Scotia Tragedy, 3 bodies found in their home. At least they were together. Rest in piece. I will miss you so much.”
Oliver-McCurdie added, “Can’t say much as I am exhausted and lost but thought I would share one of her happier moments. Don’t know who I will call to chat for hours, solve world problems and laugh at crazy stuff. From afar Jolene, even through the tough times, we were always close and loved one another. Will be terribly missed.”
Dawn Madsen Gulenchyn & Frank Gulenchyn
Dawn Madsen Gulenchyn and her husband, Frank Gulenchyn, were identified by the Regional Municipality of Durham as two of the victims of the shooting. Regional Chair and Chief Executive Officer John Henry said in a statement:
On behalf of the Region of Durham and our residents, I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to everyone affected by the tragic shootings in Nova Scotia. This tragedy hits especially close to home, as two of the victims were long-time Durham residents. Dawn, who was a former employee working at Hillsdale Terraces long-term care home for decades and retired in 2019, and her husband Frank. Our hearts go out to their family and all families affected by this senseless tragedy.
As a nation, we are united in these moments of sorrow and grief. We can never understand these senseless acts of violence. But, we hope these communities can find comfort and support in the nation that stands behind them.
Lillian Hyslop was walking in Wentworth Valley when she was shot and killed, The Chronicle Herald reports. Hyslop had retired to that community with her husband, Michael, a former Yukon government official, in recent years, neighbors told the newspaper.
“Lillian walked every morning. She would walk (from her place on the New Annan Road near the intersection with Highway 4) to the Old Station Road and back again,” Debi Atkinson told The Chronicle Herald. “To me it was just 100-per-cent random that she was walking on the road and she had a safety vest on.”
Another neighbor and fellow walker, David Matthews, told the newspaper, “We always talked to Lillian. She was an awful nice lady. We chatted about the weather or the COVID-19. She’d only been in the area for three or four years, so we didn’t really know her all that well, but we knew her enough to know she was a fine person. … Always friendly, always nice, always sociable.”
Sean McLeod & Alanna Jenkins
Husband and wife Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins, of Wentworth, Nova Scotia, were both correction workers and were killed together during the rampage, according to The National Post.
“They would have done anything for anybody and they always made sure people were welcome in their home,” Taylor McLeod, McLeod’s daughter, told the newspaper. A friend and co-worker, Nadine Mercer Zwicker, wrote a heartfelt tribute to the couple on Facebook:
I have had the pleasure of meeting two of the victims professionally and getting to know them both personally over the last 16 years. Sean MacLeod and Alanna Jenkins were part of the first responder community working in Federal Corrections. Sean was a Correctional Manager at Springhill Inst for Men and Alanna was a Correctional Manager at NOVA Inst for Women.
As Correctional Managers they were faced with having to remain calm and confident while managing crisis on a daily basis. Once the crisis was over they were responsible to support their officers by listening and helping them to cope and manage the incidents and trauma they experienced. One of their colleagues once told me she referred to Correctional Managers as the “glue” that holds the Institution together. Reflecting back on this today, and knowing the dedication and passion both Sean and Alanna put into their careers, they truly were part of the team and the “glue” that held things together. They were there for their employer and they were there for their fellow peers and officers.
Working in Corrections can sometimes be seen as a thankless job. Over the years, the job can become a burden and take an emotional toll on your mental health. Both Sean and Alanna have overcome challenges so they could continue to do the job they loved. Sean and Alanna will always be survivors and hero’s in my eyes.
I take comfort in knowing Sean and Alanna are together, hopefully on beach with a drink in hand, watching over us.
Sean and Alanna thought the world of their family. Their granddaughter was their pride and joy. They loved spending time with her and creating special memories. For Sean and Alanna I want you to know your community, your province, your country, we got this. We have your back. We will be the “glue” to support your family as they grieve your tragic and sudden loss.
You will forever be in my heart and never forgotten.
Corrie Ellison, 42, was a social worker who lived in Truro, Nova Scotia, and was visiting his father in Portapique when he was killed. He was remembered as a thoughtful and kind friend who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His father, Richard Ellison, told The National Post, ““He’s the type of person that I don’t think anybody would want to see that happen to him.”
Friend Ashley Fennell told the newspaper, ““I would call him, and it didn’t matter what he was doing, he would jump for me.” His cousin, Juliene Henderson, wrote on Facebook on Sunday, “Just texted him this AM to see if his Dad was OK … not knowing he was out there and already killed.”
John Zahl & Elizabeth Joanne Thomas
John Zahl and Elizabeth Joanne Thomas are missing and presumed dead after their home was burned down, their son, Justin Zahl, said on Facebook. They lived next door to the gunman in Portapique.
In a GoFundMe set up for the family, a friend wrote, “John and Joanne lived on Portapique Beach Rd. next door to the man responsible for the unfathomable events that occurred on April 19, 2020 in Nova Scotia. Their house was found burned down and them missing but presumed dead. The family also had cats they loved that are also lost in this tragedy.”
The fundraiser page adds, “Both of them were volunteers at St. James Presbyterian Church often and Joanne was the head of the ‘Laundry Project,’ a nonprofit group that helps people in need have clean laundry.”
Joey Webber was out running an errand on Sunday when he was shot and killed, according to a GoFundMe set up for his family.
His family wrote, “When he did not return in the time frame expected, his family became concerned. A couple family members went looking for him and called police due to the time and his errand location corresponding with the mass shooting that was happening in Nova Scotia. Joey was missing for several hours before the family learned that he was indeed one of the victims who was killed.”
Webber’s family added on the GoFundMe page:
Joey left behind his partner, Shanda MacLeod and their two beautiful daughters. He is also survived by his father, sister, brother-in-law, teen daughter, niece and nephew. Joey was currently out of work due to the recent shut down of the pulp mill affecting many who work in the forestry industry. Edited to add: He had just started back to work on Friday, April 17. Joey was the sole provider for their family, which leaves Shanda and her girls in a financially hard place on top of the tragedy that has occurred.
We, Shanda’s family, are asking for donations for burial or cremation costs initially. All money raised above that will go directly to Shanda and the girls for current and future living expenses so Shanda does not have to rush out to look for work (she really can’t during this pandemic), but can continue to stay-at-home with the girls while they grieve their loss. Beyond that, we are hopeful that they gather a little nest egg for the girls’ future education as well.
“He was very polite, always had a smile on his face. He was a great father and will be greatly missed by the community,” local Councilor Steve Streatch told the CBC.
This post will be updated as additional victims are identified.