Canadian police encourage tipsters while working on timeline of mass shooting

PORTAPIQUE, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Canadian police on Thursday worked to piece together the timeline of a shooting spree that started in a rural hamlet in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia and ended 13 hours later when the gunman, who killed 22 people, was shot dead.

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Police set up a tip line and on Thursday encouraged people who had information to call.

“Anything you know – no matter how small or insignificant it might seem – could help us piece the puzzle together,” Darren Campbell of the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said in a statement.

On Saturday night, police could not track down the gunman, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, and only picked up his trail the next day after he had gone on to kill more people, including a veteran Mountie, in the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.

Investigators are now analyzing 16 crime scenes and trying to plot Wortman’s movements overnight and during his flight the following morning.

One of the reasons Wortman may have slipped away is that he was driving a vehicle that looked identical to a RCMP cruiser and he was dressed in an RCMP uniform.

Police have yet to determine the gunman’s motive. On Wednesday, the RCMP faced criticism for poor communication with the public to alert them that an active gunman was on the loose.

A recording between a first responder and dispatcher showed confusion on Saturday night as to whether a suspect had been caught, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.

And during the pursuit on Sunday morning, police officers shot at a firehouse where people who left their homes due to the gunman’s rampage had taken refuge. It is not clear why the shots were fired, according to a provincial civilian police watchdog, because the suspect was not in the area.

No one was injured in the police shooting and the incident is under investigation.

After three Mounties were killed and two were severely wounded by a gunman in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 2014, the RCMP commissioned an independent review to determine how the situation could have been better managed.

The review recommended the RCMP examine how supervisors are trained to command in critical situations and to enhance training. In 2017, the RCMP said the recommendations had been implemented.

Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Federation, said there still is not enough training.

“One of the challenges in our organization has always been finding the time to do that training, because we’re so short staffed we can’t even afford to have people go on training,” Sauve said.

Reporting by Tim Krochak in Portapique and Moira Warburton in Toronto; editing by Steve Scherer and Tom Brown