Late Sunday, Canadian News outlets reported a spree killing in the rural community of Nova Scotia.
The police said the killing spree, which began in the town of Portapique on Saturday night, ended about 12 hours later at a gas station about 22 miles away in Enfield, north of Halifax, where the gunman died. The police would not elaborate on how he died, though witnesses told local news outlets that they heard gunfire leading up to his death. – NYT
It is one of the worst slayings in Canadian history and the details are still murky. Currently, the prevailing information seems to indicate that this started as a deliberate directed killing of one or more of the victims and then later became random.
51-year-old Gabriel Wortman is the suspect in our active shooter investigation in #Portapique. There are several victims. He is considered armed & dangerous. If you see him, call 911. DO NOT approach. He’s described as a white man, bald, 6’2-6’3 with green eyes. pic.twitter.com/Y2nJNULlkn— RCMP, Nova Scotia (@RCMPNS) April 19, 2020
One of the slain is a veteran RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) Officer. A motive for the rampage shooting was not immediately clear. Officials said Mr. Wortman, a denturist from Nova Scotia, had a relationship to some of the victims and was not known to the police. They said one line of investigation would be whether the coronavirus pandemic had anything to do with the killing spree.
If COVID-19 stresses were a factor in the slaying it could be a dark precursor to other potential acts. As reserves run out and relief from the government proves too little or too late the potential for violence rises from its baseline.
Everyone’s potential, en masse, and equally so, everyone’s risk of victimization when an individual or group hits a tipping point and goes over it. Violence is a natural visceral reaction to induced stresses and even within civil societies it will happen. We cannot legislate it from existence or simply will that risk away, our mitigation must consist of civil efforts toward our fellows and realistic preparation and acknowledgement of the risks involved.
Politcos the world over (I should say ‘First World’ over) will argue this is a problem with people owning guns who shouldn’t. They won’t point to the fact that Mr. Wortman was, “not known to police” which equates to not having a criminal record or even a history of negative interactions with law enforcement.
That it is impossible to predict future behavior, only guess based on past behavior and assumed future stimuli is something they like to gloss over. If you’re thinking, “Keith, that’s a pretty sketchy guess.” you would be correct, far too many variables.
Conversely certain people will point to it as proof that weapons cannot be left in the hands of ordinary untrained citizens. Conveniently, this ignoring all the instances where government abused their monopoly on force. Even if such people acknowledge that governments have abused their authority, “in the past” they do so with a self assured arrogance that their government would never do such a thing… in the next breathe they may also call *insert least favorite politician* ” literally Hitler” so it baffles me which government they have this absolute faith in.
Chief Superintendent Chris Leather, the officer responsible for criminal investigations for the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said the episode began on Saturday night when the police were called to a home, where they discovered dead bodies inside and outside the residence.
He said a suspect was nowhere to be found. Over the next 12 hours, the police pursued Mr. Wortman across the province.
Commissioner Lucki said the crime scene stretched over a 50 kilometer, or 31-mile, area.
Chief Leather said Mr. Wortman appeared to be dressed as a police officer and was driving a vehicle made to resemble an R.C.M.P. car. The authorities said that Mr. Wortman then switched vehicles and was seen driving a silver Chevrolet Tracker in the Milford area. – NYT
The reports seem to indicate Wortman was using a deception, predicated on that force monopoly, to evade capture and continue his attack. This may indicate prior planning from before the current crisis, this may indicate it has nothing to do with the current global pandemic. This is, in partiality, evidence that supports a possible terrorist act.
However it also may just have been a convenient means of escape and evasion after the initial killings, those which were socially linked to him in some manner. The variables for a violence permutation are vast. It’s like a slot machine at a casino, but with even more reals and those reals can interact with other machines reals. There are a nearly endless series of combinations that result in nothing overt and that happens over, and over, and over again but someone still hits that sequence resulting in an event.
The chief said the bodies of victims were discovered in multiple locations and that several structures were set on fire.
Lee Bergerman, the assistant commissioner, appearing visibly shaken at a news conference on Sunday, said the killing spree would haunt Nova Scotia.
“Today is a devastating day for Nova Scotia and will remain etched in the minds of many for years to come,” she said. – NYT
When the combination of factors strikes and someone snaps it is tragic and terrifying, however we as first-worlders have a terrible tendency to apply a variation of NIMBY to traumatic and catastrophic events of every degree. Despite knowing, academically at least, that these events occur we still socially inoculate ourselves into a stupor of believing it is always on TV and ‘somewhere else.’
During the manhunt, the authorities warned residents that Mr. Wortman was armed and dangerous, and told them to stay inside.
Frightened residents locked their doors and many hid in their basements — and stayed there overnight — as news of the shooting spread through the close-knit community.
Did they take any other precautions, I wonder? Far be it from me to suggest that a governing authority figure actively endorse necessary force to prevent a man on a killing spree from adding you and your family to the body and injury count.
In July 2018, a man wielding a gun in Toronto walked down a busy street and randomly shot two people and injured 13, before killing himself.
One year earlier, in late January, Canada was deeply shaken when a political science student entered a mosque in Quebec City during prayers, killing six people and wounding many more.
One of the worst mass shootings in recent Canadian history occurred on Dec. 6, 1989: Fourteen women were killed in a violent anti-feminist attack at the École Polytechnique engineering school in Montreal. Fourteen others were injured, and the gunman killed himself.
But wait? Canadian style gun control efforts are supposedly so efficient that bad things only happen in the much more populous United States… that just so happens to have a lot of tightly packed urban spaces, a diverse group of cultures that don’t always get along, and an active market for certain illicit trades which reward organized crime with profit… but no, I’m sure because we only make people do a background check at gun stores and deny anyone with any felony, domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental illness from purchasing that is why bad things happen in the United States only.
Except all the other places bad things happen. NIMBY, right? Some weird form of denial NIMBY.
To the people of Nova Scotia, the community rocked by this event and who now must recover, we mourn with you.
To the politicians and groups who will use this to push farcical solutions, promises that, “we can do better” that you cannot deliver on and know it, and who will talk through the bodies to score political points by telling everyone how bad the bad thing was in order to drum up support for whichever pet snakeoil law that wouldn’t have stopped it to begin with…
Fuck you. Let the community grieve and bury their dead with dignity. Be honest, for once, and leave you empty unenforceable promises in the dust bin where they belong.