Neighbors tried to notify police of Portapique shooter’s abuse and weapons

Long before he embarked on his murderous rampage in April 2020, two of Gabriel Wortman’s former neighbors saw “red flags” in his behavior and were suspicious of everything he said and did.

“He always expressed that perception, ‘Hey, I’m easy-going, likable,'” George Forbes recalled in an interview with the commission currently investigating the murders of 22 people on April 18-19, 2020.

“There are people you can read between the lines about what they say…and I could notice that there was dysfunction in his personality and messy traits that I perceived as warning signs- runners.”

George and his wife, Brenda, tried to warn the others about the shooter, but they say their warnings were ignored.

The couple are both retired from the military. They moved to Portapique in the summer of 2002 and met Wortman about eight months later when he was looking for properties to buy. They eventually became neighbors.

Brenda Forbes told CBC News in an interview this week that staff at the Mass Casualty Commission kept her informed of the public hearings. She and her husband were both questioned in the weeks immediately following the shooting as the RCMP and the commission tried to piece together what happened and why.

Twenty-two people died on April 18 and 19, 2020. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O’Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (Radio Canada)

Warns the shooter of a dangerous shooting game

The Forbes said that when Wortman found out about their military background, he tried to get information about weapons from them and asked each of them if they could buy weapons or ammunition from him. The couple refused.

Brenda told the commission that when she asked Wortman where he got his guns, he replied, “I have my connections.”

George Forbes, a retired small arms instructor, said Wortman did not handle firearms safely, including not checking to see if they were loaded when he showed them.

At one point, George Forbes confronted Wortman about firing his guns into the exposed mudflats at low tide.

“You gotta stop this, man, because all you have to do is hit a rock and you have a ricochet somewhere else where you have no control over it,” Forbes said, forwarding his conversation with the shooter. to the committee.

He said Wortman dismissed his concern, saying it was just fun.

Previous attempts to involve the police

Commissioners Leanne Fitch, Michael MacDonald, Chair, and Kim Stanton, left to right, listen to Benjamin Sampson, an Ontario government firearms expert, appearing via video, provide technical information to the investigation of the Mass Casualty Commission on Mass Murders in Rural Nova Scotia April 18-19, 2020, in Dartmouth, N.S. on May 3, 2022. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

George Forbes said he chose not to call the RCMP about the shooting in the yard because his wife had already contacted police about another incident involving Wortman and hadn’t gone far.

Her complaint related to illegal weapons she had seen in Wortman’s possession. She said the police would not act on her information, saying it was not up to date or reliable enough.

“I’m still a little upset that they didn’t go further,” Brenda Forbes said in an interview with CBC.

“And basically saying if I didn’t have actual evidence like pictures and stuff like that. It doesn’t make sense to me and so they said they don’t have enough information, so yeah, it still pisses me off.”

When Brenda Forbes called the RCMP in 2013, it was to report what she had heard secondhand: that Wortman had pinned her longtime partner, Lisa Banfield, to the ground and beat her while three other men stood and watched.

Forbes told police what he was told, but said responding officers told him there was nothing they could do without information from a direct witness.

Forbes said others in the community – including one of the witnesses to the abuse – would not report Wortman’s actions to the police because they were afraid of him.

Forbes said she got a similar response from Banfield, when she told Forbes she was beaten.

Forbes said she told Banfield to leave and seek help, but she said Banfield refused, saying she was afraid Wortman would kill her.

Officer’s notes make no mention of domestic violence

Chief Sidney Peters, Mary Teed, Reverend Nicole Uzans, Ernest Asante Korankye and Alana Hirtle, left to right, discuss life in rural Nova Scotia during the Mass Casualty Commission’s inquiry into mass murders of April 18 and 19, 2020 in Halifax on February 23, 2022. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

When initially confronted with Forbes’ allegations that Forbes failed to properly respond to a domestic violence complaint, the RCMP said they had no record of her call.

But a subsequent search of their records in the months after the mass shooting found an officer’s notes regarding a call involving Forbes.

const. Troy Maxwell, the RCMP officer who received the Forbes complaint on July 6, 2013, provided the commission with a page of his notes.

According to the RCMP’s internal review of their records on Forbes’ complaint, Maxwell recalled it being concerns that Wortman was acting “aggressively in the neighborhood.” The review found no indication in the records that it was domestic violence.

Maxwell visited Chalet Portapique twice, with two different colleagues, with “negative results”, and there were no further details of the complaint.

Brenda Forbes said she tried to warn Banfield that she saw Wortman with other women when Banfield was not with him in Portapique.

But Forbes said when Wortman found out, he dragged Banfield to Forbes to confront her.

“And he said, ‘You told her I didn’t care about her,’ and I said, ‘If the shoe fits, wear it,'” Forbes said this week.

“He grabbed her and dragged her out of the house. And from that day on she was not allowed to talk to me.”

Harassed away from home

The Mass Casualty Commission began public hearings on February 22, 2022. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Forbes said Wortman started following her and parked in front of the house when she came home every day.

“I was hiding my car in the woods so he wouldn’t know I was home because I noticed he was following me,” she said.

“And he would come to the house and stare at her, point at her and he would stay there for about half an hour. And then I guess he must have realized that maybe I’m not home, but he would do it every day, when my husband was gone, he knew my husband was not there.

When George Forbes returned from a job he was doing in Africa, his wife told him they had to leave Portapique, which they did in 2014. George Forbes said they were so excited to leave that ‘they suffered a loss of $100,000 on the sale. from their home.

Brenda Forbes still lives with severe PTSD, in part because of her encounters with Wortman, and said she hopes everyone who has been hurt by the tragedy will receive the support they need to move on.

“I’m helping other people with post-traumatic stress disorder…everyone who’s been really affected by it needs the same kind of help,” she said. “And I would bend over backwards to give them that help.”