Maine man who bought gun later used in Nova Scotia shootings lied to police about purchase


A Maine man admitted to lying to an RCMP investigator about the day he went to a gun show and bought a high-powered rifle with Gabriel Wortman, who used the rifle a year later when he killed 22 people in Nova Scotia, newly released documents show.

New details of how the shooter obtained firearms are included in a report released Tuesday morning by the public inquiry examining the April 2020 massacre. The shooter never had a firearms license and smuggled three guns into Canada from Maine.

RCMP interview transcripts, released unredacted for the first time, shed light on how the shooter bypassed authorized dealers and staged a private cash sale of a 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle branded Colt Law Enforcement at a gun show in Houlton, Maine, in April 2019.

In the weeks following the shooting, police spoke with the gun dealers and Neil Gallivan, a man who lives outside Houlton and went to the show with Wortman the previous spring.

“I apologize… for the lies”

Gallivan first asserted in an interview with RCMP Sgt. Fraser Firth that he couldn’t remember details of that Saturday morning, denied going to the event with Wortman, then backtracked several times during the interview.

Gallivan had already spoken to US investigators. Eventually, he admitted to going to the show with Wortman, whom he had known for two decades.

“I tried to save my own skin because I knew it was going to be a big deal,” he told Firth of his earlier denials. “I apologize for the uh, for that – for the lies.”

It is illegal for an American to transfer, sell, barter, give, transport, or deliver a firearm to someone who they know is not a U.S. resident, but a CBC News investigation found charges seem unlikely for those who provided the shooter with some of his weapons.

Gallivan was a longtime friend of Sean Conlogue of Houlton. Both men told police they met Wortman through Tom Evans, a now deceased Fredericton lawyer. Over the years, they have all spent time together at a camp 40 kilometers south of the border town.

Conlogue admitted that he was the source of two handguns that the shooter appears to have used. Conlogue said he gave one as a gift and told police Wortman took the other from his home.

But while details have already emerged on these two weapons, filings released on Tuesday offer more information on the semi-automatic rifle.

The shooter frequently stayed at the home of his friend Sean Conlogue in Houlton, Maine. Neil Gallivan told RCMP he visited Conlogue before and after buying a high-powered rifle at a gun show with the shooter in April 2019. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

In his interview with the RCMP, Gallivan went on to explain that on April 27, 2019, he stopped by Conlogue’s home to see how to get to the show together. But as Conlogue was recovering from surgery and Wortman was staying there to help, Gallivan went with the shooter instead.

It appears Wortman admired the gun in the morning but was unable to purchase it, so he and Gallivan returned to the arena around noon, at which time Gallivan bought it for cash at a private sale. .

“It was really quick and kinda dirty. And I brought the gun back and gave it to Sean,” Gallivan said, according to a transcript.

“You Sell It”

During his RCMP interview, Gallivan insisted that Conlogue gave him around US$1,250 in cash for the “AR rifle” and he thought he was doing his friend a favor by buying it.

At one point he speculated that Wortman stole the gun from Conlogue, but later said he did not know how the gun ended up in Nova Scotia.

“I wouldn’t sell it to [Wortman] I would never do that anyway… how would he get across the border?” Gallivan said at one point. “I haven’t done anything wrong from the start, I was just trying to be a good friend to everyone.”

Firth pressed him for the truth, pointing out that Conlogue was essentially bedridden at the time due to his surgery.

“You sell it if you walk out of that room and make it look like Sean…was more involved,” Firth said.

The RCMP has no jurisdiction to enforce US laws and Firth told Gallivan that the RCMP is “not interested in pursuing Canadian charges against you”. Earlier the same day, an RCMP investigator told Conlogue that they were not looking to hold him responsible.

Based on comments made by Mounties during both interviews, they were in constant contact with US investigators while conducting their own interviews in Maine.

Search warrant documents describe how the shooter used a Colt Law Enforcement brand 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle and the weapon came from Maine in 2019. (Radio-Canada News/Illustration)

Gallivan maintained that after the purchase they all looked at the gun together at Conlogue’s home and later visited Gallivan’s property and Wortman practiced shooting it.

Conlogue, in his interview with the RCMP, said he didn’t remember much of the day due to his health issues. He said Wortman paid for the gun and saw him counting money at a desk in his home. He didn’t talk about going to Gallivan.

Gallivan said he knew the situation he was in with the police was “his damn fault” and repeatedly said he had no idea what Wortman was capable of. Near the end of his interview with the RCMP, he suggests that he gave the gun to Wortman.

“I found the gun, gave it to…Gabriel and he killed people with it. It’s awful,” Gallivan told RCMP. “I never intended for it to happen this way.”

Small paperwork

One of the gun show organizers told CBC News that all authorized dealers selling firearms had to complete FBI background checks, but the public investigation found that the person selling the rifle did not and had little paperwork.

Two men told the police about the sale of the gun. One of them was the owner of the gun and a second man, Don Dematteis, was helping out at the gun show booth.

The 31st annual Houlton Rifle and Pistol Club gun show was held April 27-28, 2019. One of the organizers said around 700 people passed through the arena over the weekend . (The Houlton Rifle and Pistol Club/Facebook)

Dematteis later identified Wortman to police as a man who approached him in the morning to purchase the gun. He said he refused to sell it because the potential buyer admitted he didn’t live in Maine, according to a summary of his interview released by the public inquiry.

He recalled that a few hours later he sold the gun to a man in his 60s who had a Maine license. Dematteis said he gave the buyer a receipt but did not recall taking his name.

Police have recovered the semi-automatic rifle from the stolen Mazda 3 the shooter was driving when he was killed in Enfield, Nova Scotia. They discovered that the weapon’s selector was in the firing position. It was equipped with a flashlight and an overcapacity magazine that could hold 25 rounds.

The public inquiry found that, based on forensic analysis, the shooter used the rifle several times during the murderous rampage.