N.S. RCMP who shot at firehall on administrative duty during internal reviews of case

HALIFAX — The RCMP says two officers who fired towards a civilian and another RCMP officer during last year's mass shooting will remain on administrative duties until internal inquiries are completed.

Nova Scotia's police oversight agency issued a report on Tuesday clearing the Mounties of criminal wrongdoing after they fired five shots with high-powered rifles outside the Onslow, N.S., firehall.

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The report by the Serious Incident Response Team, or SIRT, concluded the "totality of the evidence'' prompted the officers to believe the killer was standing just 88 metres away from them on the morning of April 19.

According to the report, radio congestion prevented the Mounties from contacting other police and they mistakenly believed the civilian standing near an RCMP car was the killer because he wore a reflective vest like the one the mass shooter was wearing.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Mark Skinner said in an email Wednesday that an internal code of conduct investigation is standard practice in incidents such as this.

He also wrote there is an investigation underway by the force's hazardous occurrence investigation team "to find out more about the incident and make recommendations going forward."

He says the two members have been on administrative duties and will remain in those paid positions pending the outcome of the RCMP’s investigations.

Skinner also noted that the RCMP has provided $39,000 to the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade for damages to the firehall, a fire truck and an electronic sign as a result of the gunfire.

He said the RCMP "share the concerns this incident raised," and "the incident remains under investigation by the RCMP with the intent of preventing a similar future occurrence."

The fire brigade said Tuesday it was "frustrated and disappointed that there will be no accountability for the RCMP. Their actions that day endangered lives, damaged property and caused mental health issues for many of the people involved."

The union representing the RCMP officers defended their actions and the SIRT report's findings.

"This was an extremely challenging and complex emergency response, particularly given that the suspect was known to be wearing an RCMP uniform and driving a replica RCMP vehicle," Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Federation, said in an emailed statement.

"We are pleased that SIRT delivered a thoughtful, fair, timely and transparent decision on this incident. We are fully confident in all our members’ brave and selfless actions on that day."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.

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