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Errors and omissions revealed in RCMP statements after Nova Scotia mass shooting

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HALIFAX — In the days following the mass shooting that left 22 people dead in Nova Scotia, the RCMP’s statements to the public were riddled with mistakes, confusion and omissions, a newly released report reveals.

The document, published Tuesday by the inquiry investigating the 2020 tragedy, also asserts that key information about the case, including the victims’ names and the types of weapons used by the killer, was withheld from the public longer than was needed.

The commission of inquiry does not have a mandate to assign blame, but the 126-page document lays out a long list of miscues and delays, some of which attracted the ire of senior RCMP brass in Ottawa.

The summary of evidence confirms that on the night of April 19, 2020, when the Mounties held their first news conference about the killer’s 13-hour rampage, the RCMP initially chose to understate the number of people who were known to be victims.

The senior Mountie who led the RCMP’s initial news conferences, Chief Supt. Chris Leather, said after being pressed by reporters that “in excess of 10 have been killed.” However, before his 6 p.m. news conference in Halifax, Leather knew that victims were still being found and the official number stood at 17, the document says.

In media interviews later that night, the head of the RCMP, Commissioner Brenda Lucki, told the CBC that 13 people were killed. And just before 8 p.m. that night, Lucki told The Canadian Press that the death toll was 17.

The resulting confusion prompted a flurry of emails among senior RCMP staff. Jolene Bradley, director of strategic communications at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, sent a message to her counterpart in Nova Scotia, saying, “Doesn’t help that the (commissioner) is giving the number!!!! Am really trying to get that back in the box for you.”

Lia Scanlan, director of strategic communications in Halifax, replied: “Thank you. It looks awful and I’ve had to ask my entire team to turn their phones off …. Lord help me!!”

At 10:21 p.m., Scanlan sent another email to headquarters, saying: “Can I make a request to stop changing number on victims. Please allow us to lead the release of information. It looks fragmented and inconsistent.”

In a followup interview with inquiry investigators, Scanlan said government officials, including Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were “weighing in on what we could and couldn’t say” during media briefings. She did not provide further details.

Scanlan has told the inquiry that 10 was the number the Nova Scotia RCMP first used “because at a certain point, you have to call your information final.”

By 11 p.m. on April 19, 2020, the RCMP had concluded that up to 22 people had been killed. The next day, Leather said the death toll had climbed to at least 19. The RCMP didn’t reveal the final number until a statement was released on April 21, 2020.

At another point during the first news conference, Leather was asked if the killer was known to police. Leather said: “No, he was not.” But that was not the case.

On the morning of April 19, 2020, the RCMP learned from police records that the killer had threatened to kill his parents in 2010 and had access to long guns. The records also confirmed he had told a police source in 2011 that he “wanted to kill a cop.” And in early 2020, he had a bizarre but non-violent interaction with police who had parked their vehicle in the lot next to his denture-making business in Dartmouth, N.S.

As for the identities of the victims, Leather said on April 20, 2020, that no names would be released until Nova Scotia’s medical examiner had confirmed the identity of certain individuals. The Mounties’ own records, however, show that by 5:25 p.m. that day, all of the victims’ immediate next of kin had been notified of their deaths — and that RCMP headquarters had confirmed its support for releasing the names.

By April 25, media reports confirmed the names of the 22 victims, but the RCMP had yet to provide a list.

The RCMP’s operational manual says the names of deceased persons can be released once next of kin have been notified, but only if the disclosure will further the investigation, or there is a public safety concern or the identities have already been made public through other means.

On another front, Leather was asked at subsequent news conferences about the weapons owned by the gunman. He declined to provide details, saying he couldn’t comment because the province’s police watchdog agency — the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) — was investigating.

But the inquiry’s document makes it clear the Mounties knew a great deal about the killer’s firearms early in their investigation.

The RCMP had recovered multiple firearms from the stolen car the gunman was driving when he was shot dead by two Mounties at a gas station north of Halifax on April 19, 2020. A forensic identification officer had catalogued a list of five weapons, including two semi-automatic rifles, by April 21.

The types of guns used by the shooter, however, were not shared in the five news conferences that took place in the week following the mass shooting.

Internal RCMP documents show that on April 28, 2020, Lucki convened a meeting of senior RCMP officers, during which she said she was disappointed that details about firearms had been omitted. According to notes taken by RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell, Lucki said she felt “disobeyed” when those details were not shared.

Campbell’s notes say Lucki had promised the Prime Minister’s Office that the RCMP would release the descriptions, adding that the information “was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer.”

In response, Campbell told Lucki that he was the one who had asked the strategic communications team not to release the firearms details because doing so could jeopardize the RCMP’s investigation into how the gunman obtained them.

The inquiry’s document also takes issue with Leather’s statement on April 20, 2020, that police did not know about the killer’s replica police vehicle until the morning of April 19 — the second day of the killer’s rampage.

The inquiry has heard the Mounties were first told the gunman was driving a fully marked replica cruiser shortly after 10 p.m. on April 18, 2020, when 911 calls starting coming in from Portapique, N.S., where 13 people were killed. More witnesses came forward at 10:25 p.m. and the next morning at 5:16 a.m.

The document also reveals that RCMP Const. Wayne Tingley had seen the fully marked RCMP replica in Elmsdale, N.S., on April 17, 2020 — a day before the shootings started. He noticed the car had a push bar — uncommon for actual RCMP cruisers — and lacked a licence plate but he didn’t see the driver. Tingley provided a statement to the RCMP about his sighting on April 23, 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2021.

— With files from Lyndsay Armstrong and Keith Doucette

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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Crime

Civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret police station

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VANCOUVER — A Spanish civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret police station operated by Chinese authorities.

The group Safeguard Defenders said in a report in September that there were Chinese police operations around the world, including three in Toronto, and an updated report names another 48 locations.

Safeguard Defenders, a not-for-profit human rights group, said two of the new locations are in Canada: one in Vancouver and the second unknown.

The group’s previous investigation looked into the expansion of “long-arm policing” and transnational repression imposed by the Chinese government.

Its latest report, titled “Patrol and Persuade,” gathered more evidence on how these police station function and their “persuasions of return” strategies, the group said in its report.

“Patrol and Persuade also documents the silent complicity of a number of host countries, instilling a further sense of fear into targeted communities and severely undermining the international rules-based order,” Safeguard Defenders said in an online statement.

Its previous report alleged employees from the overseas police system use intimidation and threats to enforce the “involuntary” return of immigrants back to China for persecution.

The group claimed that between April 2021 and July 2022, Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China.

No one from the Chinese Embassy was immediately available for comment on the new information, but it has previously described the offices as volunteer-run service stations to process things like driver’s licences.

The report said the newly documented Vancouver-based police station is being operated by authorities from Wenzhou, a port and industrial city in China’s Zhejiang province.

It said most of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, directly refuting the government of China’s previous statements that the operations were started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“New information shows at least one illegal ‘persuasion to return’ operation run through the Wenzhou station in Paris, France; and at least 80 cases where the Nantong overseas police system assisted in the capture and/or persuasion to return operation,” the report said.

The group claimed their work prompted at least 12 countries, including Canada, to launch investigations into local police stations.

A series of recommendations have been listed by Safeguard Defenders for all governments to consider, such as educating local law enforcement on the methods used by the operators and imposing costs on entities and individuals involved in the repression efforts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month he raised the issue of interference directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

Xi later berated him for informing the media about their conversation.

The RCMP said in early November that it is investigating the issue, and officials told MPs in early October that they were aware of the claims by the group.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Nono Shen, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Suspect in massive fentanyl bust arrested in Edmonton

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Release from Alberta RCMP on behalf of Saskatchewan RCMP

Over 10 kgs of fentanyl seized after SK RCMP WEST arrest male wanted on multiple warrants

In the Summer of 2022, the Saskatchewan RCMP Warrant and Enforcement Team (WEST) launched an investigation into the arrest of a 42-year-old Kurt Miller who was wanted on 25 outstanding charges.

Miller was wanted on warrants for his involvement in an incident back in May 2020. The Saskatoon RCMP F-SOC (Federal Serious and Organized Crime) team executed a search warrant near Biggar, SK, and an RCMP ERT (Emergency Response Team) officer was injured after shots were fired by the suspects. Miller was arrested on his outstanding matters but failed to appear at his final court proceedings.

Read more: https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/news/2020/saskatchewan-rcmp-federal-serious-and-organized-crime-lay-drug-trafficking-charges

Saskatchewan RCMP WEST working in conjunction with the Regina Police Service, Alberta RCMP, the Edmonton Police Service, Swift Current Saskatchewan RCMP Trafficking Response Team (STRT), RCMP were able to determine that Miller may be in Alberta and actively involved in crime.

On Nov. 1, WEST, along with officers from Moose Jaw RCMP CRT (Crime Reduction Team) and Saskatoon F-SOC deployed to Red Deer, AB, worked in collaboration with the Red Deer ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team) and corroborated information to better locate and identify Miller’s whereabouts and activities. Based on all the information gathered by investigators, Miller was believed to be in the city of Edmonton.

The following day, WEST deployed to Edmonton in an effort to locate Miller. Officers conducted proactive patrols and canvassed the areas Miller was believed to have been seen.

On Nov. 3,2022, at 10:00 p.m. WEST was conducting patrols in Edmonton when they observed a male suspect exiting a trailer and placing bags in a vehicle before departing in it. WEST stopped the vehicle along the intersection of 82 Ave and 105 Street. Officers located Miller in the rear seat and he was taken into custody. The driver and female passenger were also taken into custody and released shortly after.

A search of the vehicle incidental to arrest revealed a suitcase and duffle bag containing drug preparation equipment and approximately 10.6 KG of suspected Fentanyl. The Strathcona County RCMP General Investigation Section was advised and have taken carriage of the drug investigation.

As a result of this investigation 42-year-old Kurt Miller of Brownlee, SK, has been charged with the following offences under theControlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) in addition to his outstanding warrants for his arrest:

  • Trafficking 5(1) CDSA;
  • Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking 5(2) CDSA; and
  • Possession of equipment for use in production of substance 7.1(1) CDSA.

Miller was transported back to Saskatchewan to appear in court for his outstanding warrants in relation to the F-SOC investigation. He is scheduled to appear in court in Saskatoon on December 9, 2022, at 11 a.m.

“In this investigation, we seized over 10 kg of fentanyl which had the potential of reaching communities across Saskatchewan and Alberta. Approximately 2 mg of this substance is considered a lethal dose depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage. Our communities are safer because of this drug seizure and the dismantlement of this trafficking operation,” says Superintendent Glenn Church, officer in charge of the Saskatchewan RCMP’s new Saskatchewan Enforcement Response Team (SERT). “This investigation is an example of excellent collaboration between our specialized Saskatchewan RCMP teams and municipal and provincial partner police agencies. Removing illicit drugs from the street and preventing it from reaching our communities continues to be a top priority for the Saskatchewan RCMP.”

Background:

The Saskatchewan Enforcement Response Team (SERT) consists of Saskatchewan RCMP’s Crime Reduction Team (CRT) and Warrant Enforcement Suppression Team (WEST), as well as the Saskatchewan Trafficking Response Team (STRT). SERT will help the Saskatchewan RCMP continue to fulfil its mandate as the province’s police force – keeping our communities safe.

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