HOULTON, Maine — The event that set off the worst mass shooting in Canadian history may have been a phone conversation the shooter had with friends in Houlton just before he killed 22 people and set fires in Nova Scotia.
Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist whose mass shooting resulted in the deaths of 23 people, including himself, last April, had been on FaceTime with two people from Houlton the night the shootings began, according to court documents that had been redacted but recently were re-released with more information.
The names of the two Houlton residents remain redacted, though one is identified as a woman.
The newly released information comes from the testimony of Lisa Banfield, Wortman’s common law spouse, who was with him the night when the shootings started. Banfield told the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that she and Wortman, who were not married but were celebrating their 19th anniversary together that evening, had FaceTimed their Houlton friends to tell them about their plans to have a commitment ceremony the next year on their 20th anniversary.
The woman they had FaceTimed with was opposed to the idea, which caused Wortman to become angry, Banfield told the RCMP.
“She had said ‘don’t do it’ and I got upset that she said that so I said I’m leaving and he [Wortman] got pissed off,” Banfield said in her statements to RCMP. After walking halfway back to a cottage she shared with Wortman, she returned and tried to apologize, but that Wortman was still angry, Banfield said.
Banfield described being physically assaulted later that night by Wortman, who then poured gasoline all over the cottage, telling her “it’s done.” Banfield was forced into the back of Wortman’s car that had been made to resemble an RCMP vehicle, she said. She managed to escape from the vehicle and hid out in the woods until Wortman left, their cottage having burned down.
Police shot Wortman dead at a gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia, after his killing and arson spree.
In addition to the phone call made that night, several of the guns Wortman used during the shooting also have a Houlton connection, including an AR-15-style gun believed to have been acquired illegally during a 2019 gun show in Houlton.
The documents also show Wortman was a frequent traveler to Houlton prior to the border being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Banfield had also said that Wortman possessed a Nexus card, which allows pre-screened travelers quicker entry into the United States, and that Wortman had received an apology from Canadian border officials after complaining about having to be searched, according to court documents.