Halifax – In northern Nova Scotia two years ago, when someone disguised as a mountain began killing people, there was considerable confusion over who was responsible for the RCMP operation, newly released documents show.
The public inquiry into the tragedy also heard about the “chaos in communication” on April 18-19, 2020, when 22 people were killed in the worst shooting in modern Canadian history.
Summary of Evidence on RCMP Command Decisions Released on Tuesday The inquiry was reminded that the first sign of trouble came at 10:01 pm on April 18, 2020. It was then that Jamie Blair, a resident of rural Portof, NS, called 911 to report that her husband had been shot by a “big gun.”
When the gunman entered his home, Blair said shortly before he was shot, the attacker had a “next and named” police car but he was not a police officer.
At the time, Staff Sgt. Brian Rehl, who followed RCMP protocol and was RCMP’s risk manager at its operational contact center in nearby Truro, NS, immediately accepted the command.
Within the next 30 minutes, as reports of more deadly shootings came in, Rehill was involved in the RCMP’s critical incident command structure, and he enlisted the help of four staff members, Steve Holiday, Audi McCallum, Al Carroll and Jeff West.
The 130-page document contains excerpts from an interview with Holiday, who arrived at the RCMP unit in Bible Hill, NS, at 11:30 pm, making it clear that he believed he was responsible for “the overall operation.”
But Holiday, the district’s executive officer, told investigators that he had decided to leave Rehill in control of resources as the “current incident commander”.
“I decided to leave Brian in that role,” he told investigators.
Meanwhile, Al Carroll – Colchester County District Commander – told authorities that Rehil had “orders” until 11:45 p.m.
In an interview with the commission last year, Rehill said his understanding was that the trained complex incident commander – Jeff West – would be the “initial critical incident commander” until that night.
Similarly, there was another RCMP officer that night: Sgt. Andy O’Brien, Officer-in-Charge of Bible Hill Division Operations. Although he had been out of duty and had four drinks, O’Brien later recovered his handheld radio from the unit – with the help of his wife – and joined in providing guidance to the investigating officers.
The question of who was in charge during those important early morning hours was mentioned in an earlier Occupational Health and Safety Report, which violated the RCMP Federal Labor Code and failed to ensure that employees had the necessary oversight.
In a March 29 report, investigator Lorna Macmillan said public works officials were operating in a “chaotic environment of who has command and control of the situation.”
Macmillan concluded that supervisors’ training did not provide supervisors with the necessary skills to allow them to manage a significant outburst, such as an active shooting in a large outdoor, rural environment. “
RCMP Corporal Tim Mills, who was in charge of the Tactical Response Unit at the time, testified on Monday that he and a group of 12 people received limited direction when they tried to find the killer on the second day.
Roger Burrill Mills, senior counsel for the trial, asked: “When you respond, does anyone guide your response locations while the offender is moving?”
“No, no,” Mills replied, as he retired from the army.
As for the senior mountains involved, the latest document mentions subt. Darren Campbell and Chief Assistant. Chris Leather. But given some details, Campbell agreed to deploy a key incident commander at 10:46 pm and followed up with an email indicating that there had been “multiple shootings”. The document states that it is not clear who received this email.
At 11:08 p.m., Leather sent a text message to Campbell stating that he was aware of the “double murder and the man who fired the shots north of Troy.” Campbell responded by confirming that he had acknowledged an important incident commander, but did not provide further details.
April 19, 2020 at 1:19 a.m., Staff Sgt. Jeff West took charge as a key incident commander at a command post in the Great Village, NS, about 10 kilometers east of Port-au-Prince. But he could not announce the change after five minutes due to high traffic on RCMB radios.
During most of the initial investigation the police heard that the communication with the two-way radio was confusing, mainly because the computer could not handle the number of incoming calls. RCMP Cpl. Emergency response team member Trent Milton, who testified Monday, said there was “confusion in communications.”
Under investigation by Robert Pinio, a lawyer representing the families of the 14 victims, the RCMP official said, “Most people tried to sound on the radio, which led to chaos.”
And when the staff sergeant. At 10:20 a.m. on April 19, 2020, Don McCullough took charge as the Commander-in-Chief, and he was unable to broadcast the change of command until 11:21 a.m. because the wind waves were blocked.
The gunman at the inquest, Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old dental technician, was shot dead by two mountaineers just before 11:30 a.m. when he stopped at a gas station north of Halifax to refuel his stolen car.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 17, 2022.
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