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Spouse of gunman who killed 22 Nova Scotians calls for policing reform at inquestSEDI News

The spouse of the gunman who killed 22 Nova Scotians in a 2020 mass shooting is calling for improved police training and handling of domestic violence.

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Jessica Zita, a lawyer representing the killer’s wife Lisa Banfield, told a federal-provincial inquiry Thursday that police should have recognized that the gunman was a high risk of significant violence given his “disturbing history.”

“Police failed to protect the people of Nova Scotia from a criminal and failed to follow through on opportunities to identify him as a threat on several occasions over the years,” Zita said Thursday.

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The families of the shooting victims want to ensure the inquest’s recommendations are followed

Long before Gabriel Wortman killed 22 people in an April 2020 rampage through rural Nova Scotia, he assaulted a teenager in 2001, he threatened to kill his parents in 2010 and he told someone he wanted to “kill a cop” in 2011. is

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Brenda Forbes, a former neighbor of the gunman, testified that she told police Wortman pinned Benfield to the ground in July 2013 but nothing was done about it.

Click to play video: 'NS firing victim's family member says more witnesses should testify'

Family member of NS shooting victim says more witnesses should testify

Family member of NS shooting victim says more witnesses should testify – September 14, 2022

Zita said police should update their protocols and training so they are better equipped to recognize “high-risk situations” and respond to domestic violence.

“There should be a mandate to train officers to respect and empower victims of domestic violence, including those who are reluctant and ambivalent,” Zita said.

“Police forces must be educated on coercive control and how it manifests,” she said.

Lawyer Jessica Zita, representing Lisa Banfield, addresses the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry into mass killings in rural Nova Scotia on April 18/19, 2020, on Thursday, September 22, 2022, in Truro, NS. Gabriel Wortman, an officer dressed as an RCMP and driving a replica police cruiser, killed 22 people. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan.


Erin Breen, representing the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, the Avalon Sexual Assault Center and Wellness Within, told the inquiry that the data showed a high correlation between mass murder perpetrators and a prior history of gender-based violence.

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Banfield has testified that Wortman assaulted her and threatened her with a weapon on numerous occasions during their 19-year relationship. Inquiries also revealed that he was violent with his first wife.

“So it is at our own peril that we, as a society, cling to ignorant prejudices and stereotypes to dismiss gender-based violence as a private matter that does not affect us personally,” Brain said.

Zita also told the inquiry that the RCMP’s conduct in gathering information to charge Banfield with supplying ammunition to the gunman was misleading, “inappropriate and out of touch”.

Benfield, his brother and his brother-in-law were charged in December 2020 with providing ammunition to Wortman before the mass shooting, though none of them knew how the ammunition would be used.

Click to play video: 'Final submissions continue in NS shooting inquiry'

Final submissions to the NS shooting investigation continue

Final submissions to the NS shooting investigation continue

His charges have been resolved through restorative justice.

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The lawyer said RCMP officers showed sensitivity in their many conversations with Benfield after the mass shooting while “conspiring” to charge her. Zita said one of Banfield’s lawyers requested that the police alert him if they began investigating Banfield as a suspect, but this did not happen.

“The police should know that this is an inappropriate action on their part and an inappropriate behavior to betray the trust of a victim of domestic violence,” Zita said.

The inquiry’s final day of public action is Friday, although a commission adviser says they are monitoring Hurricane Fiona as it approaches the East Coast to ensure it is safe for participants to attend.

The federal Department of Justice, Nova Scotia’s attorney general, the National Police Federation and the East Coast Prison Justice Society are due to make final submissions on Friday.

Members of the public will continue to submit suggestions for inquiries via phone, email, surveys and mail through the end of the month.

This report was first published on September 22, 2022 by The Canadian Press.

© 2022 The Canadian Press