No reporter ever wants to become the story. But in Paul Palango’s case, the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history just kinda fell into his lap. It was also a story that was too hard to ignore for someone who had made a career chasing outlaw motorcycle gangs and RCMP corruption.
Palango had moved to Nova Scotia to live a quieter life. But the events of April 18 and 19, 2020, changed everything. He says he smelled a cover-up from the get-go. He’s been a man on a mission ever since. There’s even a book in the works (it’ll be his fourth). The plan is for that to drop sometime next year when a public inquiry, or Mass Casualty Commission as it’s been dubbed, is expected to release its findings into the rampage.
It’s shaping up to be a perfect storm for Palango who has found himself at the forefront of some of the biggest developments in the case since Nova Scotia denturist Gabriel Wortman left 22 people dead (including an unborn baby and an RCMP officer) and a trail of burned-out buildings in his wake.
Wortman’s 13-hour rampage may yet become a full-fledged scandal if Palango has anything to say about it.
It already is for the families of the victims still looking for answers more than a year later. There have already been enough revelations to fill a book. Those include allegations in search warrant documents released by the courts that Wortman may have been a drug dealer and had underworld connections.
But the media coverage nationally has slowed to a trickle since the RCMP stopped commenting publicly on the case six months ago.
That changed on June 3, however, when the commanding officer of the Nova Scotia RCMP, Lee Bergerman, announced that the force would be investigating the leak of three 911 audio tapes obtained by Palango of calls made to the RCMP during Wortman’s killing spree.
The audio tapes, which include a call made by one of Wortman’s victims just before her death, have created a heated public backlash, including drawing condemnation from the head of the Mass Casualty Commission. But they’ve also reignited questions about why the RCMP waited 12 hours to notify the public that Wortman was driving around in a replica RCMP vehicle randomly killing people.
The revelations didn’t end there. Palango has also recently obtained video tapes casting doubt on the RCMP’s version of events leading to Wortman’s death.
Turns out that RCMP tactical squad officers didn’t just happen on Wortman at the Irving station in Enfield as he was presumably making his getaway. That’s what the RCMP said and the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), the province’s police watchdog, concluded in its investigation of the incident.
But video obtained by Palango suggests the RCMP happened upon Wortman earlier on the morning of April 19, at a Petro Canada station a short distance away in Elmsdale. The video shows Wortman trying to fill up at the station but the pumps were apparently not working.
Tweets issued by the RCMP that morning reported that Wortman was last seen driving a Chevy Tracker. At the gas station, however, he was driving the Mazda of his latest victim and wearing street clothes. Cops seem to have suspicions about him anyway. The video shows Wortman being eyed by one tactical squad officer as he gets back in his car and leaves the station.
An RCMP convoy of eight vehicles and an armoured car would soon be in hot pursuit catching up with Wortman at the Irving Big Stop. There, it appears from video that one RCMP vehicle parks on the other side of the pumps alongside Wortman. The video shows one police officer crouched in a shooter’s stance making his way around the pumps and just in front of the passenger side door of Wortman’s car before firing 10 times through the front windshield.
From another angle, it looks like Wortman may be reaching for something in the front seat. It’s unclear if its for one of several guns police said they found him with. But those were found in the backseat, underneath a blanket, seemingly out of reach.
Palango notes that there doesn’t seem to be an attempt by the RCMP to arrest Wortman. Instead, they open fire on Wortman “almost immediately”.
Some have called Palango a conspiracy theorist. Outside of a couple of stories he’s published on the case in Maclean’s (where he broke the story back in June, for example, that Wortman withdrew $475K from his bank accounts) most mainstream media won’t touch his stories, leaving him to publish in the local Halifax Examiner and Atlantic issue of Ottawa-based gossip sheet Frank.
Palango would prefer to describe himself as “the RCMP’s worst nightmare. I’m someone who knows a little something about how they operate and has a lot of time on his hands.”
It’s turning out to be that way. The 911 leaks cut close. They suggest that even those on the inside charged with toeing the thin blue line are beginning to have their own questions about the official version of events.