N.S. man stood guard with a shotgun after the mass shooter rang his doorbell

The details surrounding the Fisher family's close call, and the other events that transpired in Glenholme on the morning of April 19, are included in a document released Thursday by the Mass Casualty Commission.

Documents show police missed the gunman by five minutes

One of the RCMP officers racing to the scene of Lillian Campbell's Wentworth homicide in April 2020 came face to face with the gunman responsible for more than a dozen murders, but lost his trail when the shooter turned into a long driveway off the main road.

The gunman knocked on the door of Adam and Carole Fisher's house in Glenholme, N.S., but never passed in front of the window while Adam was watching with a gun, prepared to "blow his f—ing head off," according to documents released by the Mass Casualty Commission.

The gunman was only at the Fishers' property off Highway 4 for about two minutes before taking off again, as the noise of a helicopter helping police in the search grew louder.

Five minutes later, a group of RCMP officers and Emergency Response Team members pulled up near the Fishers' driveway and began planning to surround the house.

No one had seen the gunman leave.

The details surrounding the Fishers' close call and other events that transpired in Glenholme on the morning of April 19, hours after the shooting rampage began in Portapique, are included in a document released Thursday by the Mass Casualty Commission.

The commission is tasked with examining the events of April 18 and 19, when Gabriel Wortman killed 22 people, including a pregnant woman.

Investigators with the commission gathered details from 911 call logs, interviews and statements from civilian witnesses and RCMP officers on the ground.

Cpl. Rodney Peterson of Colchester RCMP reported to work at the Bible Hill detachment the morning of April 19, having heard only a few things from colleagues about what had happened in Portapique the night before.

Staff Sgt. Andy O'Brien met Peterson in the parking lot and told him he'd be handling calls coming in that day. As he was walking away, O'Brien said they were still looking "for a police car" and Peterson should put on hard body armour.

He made the same assumption as multiple RCMP officers who arrived in Portapique the night before. When told by neighbours and witnesses that the gunman was driving a police car, they assumed it was a decommissioned or an older model.

Gunman 'smiled' at Peterson

Peterson arrived on Highway 4 in Glenholme and spotted a marked RCMP cruiser coming toward him just before Plains Road, about 20 kilometres south of where Campbell was shot.

He reported the sighting instantly, and at 9:47 a.m. asked whether the gunman's car was fully marked "or is it an ex-police car?"

The ERT responded they were looking for a fully marked police car with a specific call sign.

"The guy ah, was driving slow, smiled as he went by," Peterson reported, and described the driver as a white man with brownish hair, wearing a reflective vest or jacket.

"That — that's him. That's got to be him," said another RCMP constable on the radio.

In an interview with the commission, Peterson clarified the look on the gunman's face was more of an unsettling grimace, or forced smile, that did not look natural.

Peterson was on a bend in the road and had to keep driving until he hit a straight stretch.

In those few seconds when they passed each other, Peterson said he had a million thoughts going through his head about what he should do.

"This is very quick. It's not like I had a lot of time," Peterson said.

"If I stop and this is the bad guy, I'm going to get shot here, I'm going to get killed. If I continue on, that will give me a chance to turn around and pursue him."

But by the time Peterson drove another kilometre, turned around and raced south on Highway 4, he'd lost sight of the gunman.

Fishers on alert

After passing Peterson, the gunman turned into the Fishers' "lengthy inclined" driveway, which is flanked by trees and more than 200 metres long.

He'd been there once before, and was friendly with Adam Fisher, who had given him a quote for some excavation work on his Portapique property between six to eight years before. Fisher said they had a lot in common, and he had visited the gunman's place a few times.

The Fishers already knew something bad had happened in Portapique, following a late-night call from Carole's mother who lived near the community. She told them something serious was happening, and they should lock their doors.

Then around 9 a.m, Carole saw the RCMP's Facebook post sharing a photo of the gunman. She recognized him and showed Adam the photo, who said "[h]oly f—k, he's got a cop car."

Fisher hadn't seen the mock cruiser himself, but the gunman had told him about how he'd bought two decommissioned RCMP cruisers and planned to recreate one as a fully marked car.

When Fisher asked why he'd want that, the gunman shrugged and said "[b]ecause I can."

Gunman approaches house

At 9:37 a.m. Adam called the RCMP, and told a call taker he had information about the gunman's vehicles. They told him someone would get back to him if needed.

Less than 15 minutes later, Carole saw the mock cruiser pull in. At first she thought it was a Mountie responding to Adam's call, and was annoyed that they'd driven over the front lawn before parking.

But as soon as the gunman got out of the car, Carole recognized him. She told her husband, called 911 at 9:48 a.m., and ran to hide in the bathroom.

"The shooter is here that shot everyone in … in Portapique," Carole said.

"He's at our —at our door yard in a police car, please."

Adam also called 911 at 9:49 a.m., gave the gunman's full name, told them he was driving a marked police car and "dressed as a police officer."

While on the phone with 911 Adam told the dispatcher he saw the shooter grab something from the car that might be a weapon, so he loaded his 12-gauge shotgun and said "if he comes up to my house I'm gonna blow his f—ing head off."

Adam said later the scene looked like something from a Terminator movie, as the gunman wasn't rushed at all but looked cold and collected approaching the house.

Soon after the gunman rang the bell to the patio door, Adam said he was keeping a careful eye out the front window and was prepared to shoot him if he came onto the front deck.

Adam said he was sure the gunman had come to kill them — but had no idea why since they had never had any disputes.

At 9:58 a.m. Adam told the dispatcher the gunman had driven around to the back of their house and he didn't know where he was.

Gunman leaves 2 minutes after arriving

But by then, he was actually long gone: based on the Fishers' surveillance video and police movements, the commission believes the gunman left the property around 9:51 a.m.

If he'd known when he was leaving, Adam told police he would have tried to shoot him as he left. In fact, Adam said they have a driveway sensor that usually beeps in the house to alert them, but for some reason that day it didn't go off.

Speaking to police two days later, Adam said he and his wife couldn't understand why the gunman left without leaving a mark.

"We're just trying to live, to realize that we are the only friggen survivors and why," he said.

While the Fishers' house was the only one the gunman had approached and not killed anyone inside, Adam was unaware of other survivors who had been attacked, including the gunman's common-law spouse Lisa Banfield and Portapique resident Andrew MacDonald.

RCMP surround Fisher home

When the Fishers' 911 call came in, multiple RCMP members and all responding ERT members from both Nova Scotia and New Brunwick were directed to Glenholme, rather than Wentworth where Campbell had been shot.

Staff Sgt. Addie MacCallum, who had pulled out of the command role he'd led overnight to join the Sunday morning chase, was riding with one of the police dog handlers when the call came over the radio.

"And I'm like 'we got him,'" MacCallum later recalled in a commission interview.

Peterson joined up with the large group at the ramp to Highway 104, and they all soon set up about 200 metres south of the Fishers' driveway by 9:56 a.m.

The Department of Natural Resources helicopter was already in the air and made it to the Fisher residence at 9:55 a.m. Adam later said he could hear the helicopter when he first called 911, which might have scared off the gunman.

ERT snipers were sent into the woods surrounding the home as they set up a containment area, and the large Tactical Armoured Vehicle (TAV) was the first to head up the Fishers' driveway a few minutes later, calling on a loudspeaker for the gunman to surrender.

"Once again, a pretty damn good feeling. It's like, 'he's there,'" MacCallum said.

Next call comes in from Debert

But the TAV crew quickly reported there was no mock cruiser in front of the house, an observation echoed by the team in the helicopter. Police searched the area for a few more minutes, before a call came in at 10:07 a.m. there had been another shooting on Plains Road in Debert.

All RCMP members sped to the new scene, leaving the Fishers on the phone with 911. The dispatcher told them about another shooting, and advised the Fishers to stay inside.

They never heard from RCMP again, so on April 20 Adam called police to tell them they had video surveillance of the gunman that might be helpful.

Since the gunman was carrying a small dark object in one hand, and a gun in the other, Adam was worried he might have left some type of explosive on the property. But a police dog team searched the property, and found nothing suspicious.

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