TORONTO (AP) — Canadian police said Tuesday they believe there are at least 22 victims after a gunman wearing a police uniform shot people in their homes and set fires in a rampage across rural communities in Nova Scotia over the weekend.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they have recovered remains from some of the destroyed homes. Earlier, authorities had said at least 18 people were killed in the 12-hour attack.
Officials said the suspect, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, was shot and later died on Sunday. Authorities did not provide further details or give a motive for the killings.
The dead include a 17-year-old as well as a police officer, a police news release said. All the other victims were adults and included both men and women. There were 16 different crime scenes in five different communities in northern and central Nova Scotia, it said.
“Some of the victims were known to Gabriel Wortman and were targeted while others were not known to him,” the police statement said.
Authorities also confirmed Wortman was wearing an authentic police uniform and one of the cars he used “was a very real look-alike RCMP vehicle.”
“This is an unprecedented incident that has resulted in incredible loss and heartbreak for countless families and loved ones. So many lives will be forever touched,” the police statement said.
In an earlier news release authorities had said they believed there were 23 victims but Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Daniel Brien later clarified the death toll included 22 victims and the gunman.
As fears mounted that more victims would be found in burned out homes, a young man said that his grandparents were missing and believed dead after their log cabin was set ablaze during the attack.
Justin Zahl said he finally heard from police after frantic calls for information and seeing images of his grandparent’s home in the rural town of Portapique burned to the ground, with their cars in the driveway.
It was not immediately clear, however, if the remains police said were found Tuesday included those of Zahl’s grandparents.
Police teams were spread out across 16 locations in central and northern Nova Scotia, including the neighborhood where the rampage began late Saturday on Portapique Beach Road, where the suspect lived.
Police have warned the death toll will almost certainly rise as investigators comb through homes destroyed by fire.