This article contains graphic descriptions of murders and a homicide.
Cst. Craig Hubley spent the morning of April 19, 2020 in his 2015 Chevy Suburban, his service dog Dux in the back, driving around looking for a man in the midst of a killing spree.
(The Halifax Examiner refers to the mass murderer as GW.)
At about 11:20am, Hubley worried that his gas tank was running low.
“When I left my residence at 7:30, I had a full tank of gas,” he explained in a statement he later provided to the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT). “I was now below half full. I started to think long term and that we had been a couple of steps behind GW thus far. I wanted to ensure that my vehicle was topped up in case GW continued moving in a vehicle.”
Hubley dove into the Irving Big Stop in Enfield, pulled up to the pump. GW was in a vehicle on the opposite side of the pump. Hubley shot him dead.
And so ended the murder spree that left 22 people dead in a trail of carnage from Portapique to Shubenacadie.
Hubley’s statement to SIRT contains details that have not yet been corroborated by other documents that will be released by the Mass Casualty Commission; those documents are scheduled to be released next week.
Still, the SIRT statement relates a gripping story of how a police constable tried to get into the head of the killer, ultimately bringing an end to the worst mass murder in modern Canadian history.
• • •
Hubley had the weekend off, but at 1:30 in the morning on Sunday he got a text from his boss, Cpl. Jeff Wall, the acting sergeant of the Police Dog Service based at the RCMP’s Halifax detachment. Hubley called Wall, who was en route to Portapique, and Wall asked Hubley if he could come to work in the morning to relieve the other dog handlers. Hubley agreed.
Hubley arrived at the incident command post at the Great Village Fire Hall just after 8am. There were two photos of GW on the fire hall wall — his driver’s licence photo and a photo from social media. There was also a photo of GW’s fake police car; Hubley noted the call sign 28B11 on the side of the car and a black push bar on the front.
Hubley went to Portapique and met with Wall. Wall had been there since the 1:30 call and was working with the Emergency Response Team (ERT). He told Hubley that there were multiple fatalities, and that the dogs on scene weren’t able to find a track on anyone leaving the community on foot. Wall directed Hubley to go to one of the crime scenes, at 123 Orchard Beach Drive, the home of Greg and Jamie Blair.
On the drive, he could smell fire, then to his right saw a building burned to the ground — the killer’s warehouse. There were four bodies at the scene — Greg Blair on the deck of his house, Jamie Blair in a bedroom. Corrie Ellison was lying in a ditch, Lisa McCully near a fence; based on the position of McCully’s body, Hubley thought she was trying to run away from the killer when she was shot. ERT members were covering the bodies with tarps.
One of the ERT members, Cst. Ed Clarke, asked Hubley if he could take a look at an injured dog that belonged to the Blair children. Hubley walked into the house and found a male Boston terrier, about 20 or 30 pounds, sitting on a pile of clothes on the veranda.
“I went back to my truck to get a canine first aid kit and food,” wrote Hubley. “I returned to the house and administered first aid to the dog. Looking at the dog I thought its chances for survival were slim. Cst. Clarke told me that he (who I assumed was GW) had shot the dog and the people in the house. I told Cst. Clarke that the dog was not going to survive with the care I was able to give it. Cst. Clarke told me that the dog needed to live because it was the only thing the kids of the people who were dead at the house had left.”
Hubley wrapped the dog in a blanket, and asked Clarke to drive the Suburban back to the staging area at the top of Portapique Beach Road. Hubley sat in the passenger seat, holding the dog.
Meanwhile, Cst. Rodney MacDonald had arranged for a vet he knew in Truro, Jen MacKay, to come to the Great Village Fire Hall to tend to the dog. At the staging area, Hubley handed the dog over to MacDonald’s partner, Cst. Nathan Forrest. Forrest got in the passenger side of the police cruiser MacDonald was driving, and the pair headed to the fire hall.
Forrest was a quiet man, noted MacDonald in his interview with investigators. “I can’t see anything, [Forrest is] you know with a the full vest and hard body armour and a dog sitting on his lap. And if there could be a light moment out of that whole situation… of course, I hear him say ‘Deer! Deer! Deer!” By the time I understand what he’s saying, the deer’s going into my bumper and ripping the front fender. It smashed the hell our of the car. And I thought we were going to have an airbag deployment. And Nate said, ‘That was a holy fuck situation.’ I said, ‘It would have been a holy fuck situation if the airbag had gone off. You would have been eating Chihuahua is what would have happened.’”
But the two constables and the dog survived the collision with the deer, and the dog was ultimately treated by the vet and returned to the children.
In any event, Hubley related what he then knew:
At this point I believed that GW was responsible for the deaths of at least four people in the area and had shot the dog. Given the close proximity of his residence to the bodies, I thought the he likely knew the people who he killed. I also know that he had shot these people and was likely still armed. I thought that his mindset would have had an air of vindictiveness given that he shot a family pet that could not have been a threat to him given its size. It seemed that he was trying to kill everyone and everything at the residence. Killing these people and their pet and burning a house suggested to me that GW was causing as much death and destruction as possible. I knew that GW was an extreme danger to everyone he encountered. He was mobile and his direction of travel was unknown.
Hubley had just handed the injured dog over to Forrest and MacDonald, and was standing on Portapique Beach Road when at 9:45 the call came over the radio about Lillian Campbell’s murder in Wentworth.
“I believed that GW was now on a killing spree and would continue to kill other people,” wrote Hubley.
Hubley was armed with his duty pistol, a Sig Sauer 226 pistol with 15 rounds. There was a patrol carbine rifle in a locked rack in the rear of the Suburban, but that was not accessible from the driver’s seat — in order to retrieve the rifle, he’d have to get out of the vehicle, open the back hatch, and unlock the rack.
He drove to the command post at Great Village and saw Staff Sergeant Addie MacCullum in the parking lot; MacCullum got in the passenger seat so he could act as cover for Hubley.
Hubley did not go into the fire hall to receive instructions. “As a dog handler, I have autonomy to act on my own,” he explained. “In tactical situations I have the independence and freedom of movement to deploy my PSD [police service dog] in the most effective manner. This is why I didn’t stop and seek direction from the command post.”
While driving to Wentworth, the Truro Operation Control Centre radioed that GW was at the Fishers’ house in Glenholme. Hubley heard that GW was driving the fake police car with the call letters 28B11, and that the Fishers knew him. “I thought he was targeting specific people,” wrote Hubley.
When Hubley got to the staging area on the highway near the Fishers’ house, MacCullum jumped out and started commanding the other arriving police officers. The house sits off the road down a long driveway that offered no protection, so they all waited for the ERT to arrive with its Tactical Armoured Vehicle. When it did, Hubley got in the TAV with Dux, and they slowly made their way towards the house. But when they got to the house, there was no fake police car.
While sitting in the TAV, Hubley heard over the radio that a woman had been shot on Plains Road. He understood immediately that GW was driving a fake police car and killing more people.
The TAV is a heavy, slow vehicle, so Hubley ran back to the faster Suburban, got ERT member Cst. Ben MacLeod to join him as cover, and headed to Plains Road.
At Plains Road, Hubley saw two RCMP officers from the Major Crime Unit. “Their faces were ashen and they each had the look of shock,” he recalled. Hubley saw Kristen Beaton slumped in the front seat of her SUV; he got his first aid kit, and officers at the car helped remove Kristen from the SUV. “There was nothing I could do,” wrote Hubley.
“I thought that GW had used his mocked up police car to pull the woman over,” wrote Hubley — he realized that GW was now killing not just people he knew, but random people. “I had a small feeling of helplessness as most people trust the police and GW had used that to his advantage.”
Hubley got back in the Suburban, MacLeod in the passenger seat, Dux in the carrier behind, and began driving around. “I was doing everything I could to try and find GW,” he wrote.
They got to the Highway 104 exit at Debert and met up with a group of other RCMP officers. While there, he heard Cst. Dave Gagnon shouting on the radio that he was being fired upon at the Onslow fire hall. Hubley started driving onto the highway ramp, then heard Cpl. Tim Mills, the ERT team leader, say over the radio “everyone should slow down and take a breath.” Hubley understood that whatever had happened at the fire hall, it didn’t involve GW.
At 10:42, the OCC radioed that GW was seen in Brookfield on Highway 2 heading south. Hubley and MacLeod drove to Highway 102, which runs parallel to Highway 2, thinking they could get ahead of GW.
On the radio, Hubley heard that a police officer had been shot, and then a few minutes later that a second officer had been shot. This was Cst. Chad Morrison and Cst. Heidi Stevenson, respectively. Hubley also heard that GW now had one of the officer’s pistols and magazines. “I thought that I would never give up my pistol while still alive and that the member whose pistol GW had taken was dead.”
“I knew that if GW was able to shoot a police officer, he would have been able to see that it was a police officer that he was shooting at,” continued Hubley. “He could have stopped and surrendered but instead chose to shoot her. They take her pistol and magazines. I believed that he was attempting to increase his advantage by acquiring another firearm and more ammunition… I knew that GW had killed numerous civilians, he had shot two police officers, killing one. I believed that he had no intention of surrendering. He used violence to defeat a police officer and clearly was continuing his killing rampage despite encountering an authority figure. I believed that he was trying to kill as many people as possible.”
Then the OCC radioed that GW was now driving a silver SUV. This was Joey Webber’s car. Webber had stopped to help when he saw two police cars on fire, only to be killed by GW.
Hubley got off at Exit 7, the Enfield exit, and saw an unmarked Halifax police SUV, apparently ready to intercept GW should he try to head towards Fall River. Hubley went north, to the Enfield RCMP detachment, drove around the parking lot and an adjacent street, but didn’t see GW.
They continued north to the intersection of Highway 214, where there was an RCMP check point. Hubley drove over to the Elmsdale Sobeys; there had been a complaint of man with a rifle at the Truro Sobeys, but maybe the caller got the two Sobeys mixed up. But there were RCMP officers in the parking lot, so Hubley got back on the 102 at Exit 8, heading south again. That’s when he worried he was running low on gas. He got off at Exit 7 again. He stopped briefly and talked to the Halifax cop in the unmarked SUV, then drove to the Irving Big Stop.
Some of the pumps had orange bags over the handles, indicating they weren’t in service. Hubley stopped at the first pump without a bag, Pump 6. The gas tank on the Suburban was on the driver’s side, at the rear of the vehicle, but Hubley stopped short, such that his door was next to the pump.
“I saw that there was a small grey car parked on the other side of the pump,” wrote Hubley. “I didn’t notice anyone in the car.” This was Gina Goulet’s car, which GW had taken after killing her.
Hubley was wearing his dog handler uniform, which was ranger green, and hard body armour, also green, which had the a patch with the word “police” on it in large black letters. He also was wearing a tactical helmet, with a camouflage pattern.
Hubley got out of the Suburan and saw he had stopped short of the pump. MacLeod got out, too, to provide cover for Hubley, assumed Hubley.
“I looked around the pump at the car and saw a man sitting in the driver’s seat,” wrote Hubley. “The passenger side window was up. He was wearing a white tee shirt. I had a profile view of him as he looked straight ahead and he didn’t seem to notice me. He had a large hematoma on the side of his forehead and there was a small trickle of blood running down his forehead. I thought it odd that this person hadn’t addressed the wound or tried to stop the bleeding. The look on his face was one of someone who had just been in a fight. He was breathing heavy with his mouth open and he was worked up. His appearance, injury, and demeanor were outside of what I would expect from a person at a gas station. This caused me to pay closer attention and I recognized him from the pictures I had seen in the command post. I recognized that it was GW and was certain it was him.”
We don’t know how GW had been injured. Perhaps he cut himself when he rammed his fake police car into the real police cruiser Cst. Heidi Stevenson was driving. Or perhaps Gina Goulet put up a fight and injured GW before she was killed. Either way, the injury drew Hubley’s attention to GW.
Hubley yelled to MacLeod, “Benny, it’s him!” and drew his pistol, aiming at GW.
“GW heard me call out to Cst. MacLeod,” continued Hubley. “He reacted by jerking back while seated and immediately raised a silver coloured pistol in my direction with his right hand. He was looking at me as he did this… there was no doubt in my mind that he was in the process of killing me.”
Hubley shot first.
“I shot GW through the passenger side window while he was seated,” wrote Hubley. “I don’t remember hearing my shots but I remember hearing Cst. MacLeod shooting. I knew that was armed with an ERT carbine rifle… While I was shooting GW I saw him moving and jerking in the seat. I saw bullets impacting him. I continued shooting GW until I was sure that he wasn’t able to shoot back.”
When Hubley stopped shooting, he saw MacLeod positioned in front of the Suburban and bullet holes in the windshield of the car GW was driving, so Hubley knew MacLeod had shot GW as well. From the documents so far released, we don’t yet know whether GW was ultimately killed by bullet(s) fired from Hubley’s weapon or MacLeod’s weapon, or both.
“Move to me!” yelled MacLeod, and Hubley went to the passenger side of the Suburban, both men keeping their weapons aimed at GW. Hubley could see that GW was still moving. “Show me your hands!” yelled MacLeod, but GW didn’t show his hands.
Hubley used his portable radio to alert the ERT team, “kilo five [his call sign], shots away Enfield Big Stop, Pump 6,” then used the radio in the Suburban to send the same message on the local East Hants channel.
“I went back to the hood and stayed next to Cst. MacLeod,” continued Hubley. “I saw that GW was moving in the same manner as he did before he brought up the pistol he was holding. Jerking forward. I believed that GW was still trying to fight and still trying to shoot me or Cst. MacLeod.”
Hubley and MacLeod stayed at the Suburban as the ERT members arrived. Cst. Andrew Ryan came alongside Hubley and opened the Suburban’s passenger side door; by stepping on the floor of the vehicle he had a higher vantage point into the car GW was in. “He [GW] has a gun in his hand,” said Ryan.
The ERT discussed using gas to extract GW, but the wind was blowing in the direction of the Suburban, so that wasn’t used. Instead, “they used a tactical approach,” with officers providing cover for each other, and pulled GW from the car.
“I went to the back of the Suburban and looked at GW as he laid on the ground,” wrote Hubley. “He appeared deceased.”
Hubley went back to the Suburban to check on Dux. The dog was fine.
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This morning the CBC reported that GW had the gun aimed at his own temple and was thus in the process of committing suicide, which is a very significant detail. It is the long rumoured account of what went on. And it is frustrating that we are this deep into the Mass Casualty Commission findings and everything, still, is up for debate.
Finally GW’s luck ran out and an alert RCMP member finished him off .
Thanks Tim, again, excellent reporting. I now understand why a SWAT team was gassing up at Big Stop. I (and some others) thought they had left for the scene not knowing they didn’t have enough gas.
Yours is the best reporting on this by far.