A man disguised as a police officer went on a shooting rampage in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on Sunday, killing 16 people, in the worst such attack in the country for 30 years.
A police officer was among those killed. Several bodies were found inside and outside one home in the small, rural town of Portapique, about 60 miles (100 kilometres) north of Halifax – what police called the first scene.
Bodies were also found at other locations and buildings set on fire.
“This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesman Daniel Brien confirmed that 16 people had been killed in addition to the suspect.
The dead officer was identified as Constable Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and a 23-year veteran of the force. Another officer was also wounded.
Police identified the man believed to be the shooter as Gabriel Wortman, 51, who was thought to live part of the time in Portapique. Authorities said he wore a police uniform at one point and made his car look like a RCMP vehicle.
Authorities believe he may have deliberately singled out his first victims before he began attacking randomly.
Police first announced that they had arrested Wortman at a petrol station in Enfield, outside Halifax, but later said he had died. It was not clear how and they did not explain further.
Brien, the RCMP spokesman, said he could not rule out that the death toll could still rise.
Police did not say what the initial motive was. RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said many of the victims did not know the attacker.
“That fact that this individual had a uniform and a police car at his disposal certainly speaks to it not being a random act,” Leather said. He added that police believe he acted alone.
At one point, there was an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and police, he said.
Late on Sunday morning, there were half a dozen police vehicles at the scene of the gas station where the suspect died. Yellow police tape surrounded the gas pumps, and a large silver-coloured four-wheel drive was being investigated.
Mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada. The country overhauled its gun-control laws after its worst mass shooting in 1989, when gunman Marc Lepine killed 14 women and himself at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique college.
It is illegal to possess an unregistered handgun or any kind of rapid-fire weapon in Canada. Purchasing a weapon requires training, a personal risk assessment, two references, spousal notification and criminal record checks.
“As a country, in moments like these, we come together to support one another. Together we will mourn with the families of the victims, and help them get through this difficult time,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a written statement.