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Canada mass shooting death toll rises to 22 as victims identified: "A monster murdered my mother"

At least 16 dead in Canada shooting
At least 16 dead in Canada shooting 02:01

A veteran police officer, a teacher and two health care workers were among the victims of the worst mass shooting in Canadian history as the death toll rose to 22, not including the gunman. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said Tuesday new human remains were discovered in homes and vehicles set ablaze by the suspect during the weekend killing spree in Nova Scotia.

The RCMP said in a statement that a 17-year-old girl was among the victims, and the other victims were both men and women.

"We have recovered remains from some of the locations of the fires," the RCMP said.

The gunman, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, launched his rampage late Saturday in the seaside village of Portapique.  He died roughly 14 hours later after being shot by police at a gas station outside Halifax, 60 miles away.

Authorities said Wortman wore a police uniform and made his car look like a RCMP cruiser allowing him to travel easily within a 30-mile area around Portapique. A police officer was among those killed.

Heidi Stevenson

RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson poses for an undated official photo
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Constable Heidi Stevenson, who was shot and killed by a gunman April 19, 2020, poses for an undated official photo.  RCMP in Nova Scotia/Handout.

The dead officer was identified as Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force and mother of two.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recounted how members of his RCMP security detail knew and remembered fondly Stevenson.

"It really goes to show just how tightly knit not just the RCMP is as a force, but how close we are as a country," Trudeau said.

Kristen Beaton and Heather O'Brien

Kristen Beaton Facebook

Two health care workers at local nursing homes were also among those killed, according to VON Canada, a long term health care company, which identified them as Kristen Beaton, a continuing care assistant, and Heather O'Brien, a licensed practical nurse.

VON President Jo-Anne Poirier told the BBC: "All of our frontline care providers are heroes. Yesterday, two of those heroes, Heather O'Brien and Kristen Beaton, were taken from their families, and from VON. We mourn their loss, and we mourn for their families."

O'Brien's daughter, Darcy Dobson, wrote in a Facebook post that, "A Monster murdered my Mother."   

Heather O'Brien GoFundMe

"Murdered her, without a second thought. The pain comes and goes in waves. I feel like I'm outside of my own body. This can't be real. At 9:59 am she sent her last text message to our family group chat. By 10:15 she was gone."

A GoFundMe page for O'Brien had raised more than $7,000 as of Tuesday night.

Lisa McCully

Lisa McCully,  Facebook

School teacher Lisa McCully, who worked at a local elementary school, also was among the dead. "Our hearts are broken along with those of her colleagues and students at Debert Elementary," Nova Scotia Teachers Union President President Paul Wozney said.

Jenny Kierstead confirmed on Facebook that her sister, a mother of two, was also one of the victims, the BBC reported. "Our hearts are broken today as we attempt to accept the loss of my sister, Lisa McCully, who was one of the victims of the mass shooting in Portapique last night," she wrote on Facebook.

John Zahl and Elizabeth Joanne Thomas

Canada Shooting
This undated photo provided by Justin Zahl, shows from left, his brother Riley, his grandmother Elizabeth Joanne Thomas, cousin Emily O'Neil, his grandfather John Zahl and him. Justin Zahl via AP

Justin Zahl told The Associated Press that his grandparents were missing and believed dead after their log cabin was set ablaze during the attack.  Zahl said he last heard from his grandmother early Saturday evening via iMessage on her iPad.

"They were angels," he said, adding that the couple were like parents to him and his 19-year-old brother, Riley. "He was the smartest man I knew, and could hold a conversation with anyone," he said of the grandfather.

He said John Zahl, in his late 60s, and Elizabeth Joanne Thomas, in her late 50s, lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before retiring to their dream home in Nova Scotia in 2017 after falling in love with the place on a visit. Justin and his brother lived with them for a while but both young men no longer do and neither was at the home during the attack, he said.

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