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N.S. Mountie admits ‘I missed the mark’ during early communications about mass killings

Why a senior Mountie who'd been drinking on night of N.S. shootings says he jumped into action

One of the most senior RCMP officers in Nova Scotia admitted he “missed the mark” during early press conferences about the mass killings in Nova Scotia.

Chief Supt. Chris Leather was testifying at the Mass Casualty Commission, the inquiry into the murders of 22 people — including a pregnant woman — on April 18-19, 2020, by a gunman driving a replica police cruiser.

The commission’s counsel, Rachel Young, questioned Leather about the accuracy of some of the information he shared at press conferences and how he prepared for them.

Leather said he sometimes only had five or six minutes to review talking points and often had to rely on his memory to answer questions from reporters.

“That’s what led to some of the incorrect accounting,” he said. “I’ll say it right now. Obviously I missed the mark on more than a couple occasions.”

Twenty-two people died on April 18 and 19, 2020. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O’Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (CBC)

During the first news conference the evening of April 19, Leather said “in excess of 10 people” had been killed. 

But the public inquiry has found that Leather had been given information an hour before that news conference suggesting there were at least 17 victims, and he’d known for hours that officers had discovered at least 14 bodies.

“If we think about the now infamous ‘in excess of’ expression that I used, it was done with my intention to not upset/offend/mislead.… I was more concerned about giving a victim total that was over what it truly was, or in excess of,” he testified Wednesday. “And by going to the number that I chose, it in fact ended up having the opposite effect.”

Leather testified the information he was receiving before the news conference about the number of victims kept changing.

“I had received information leading up to that particular statement that I made that was truthfully in excess of 10, perhaps closer to 15, if we’re going to put a mark in the sand. But the problem was it fluctuated. Depending on who was providing me the information, it was 14, 17, back down again.”

Leather said he had a “stairwell conversation” with the director of communications, Lia Scanlan, and “we agreed…

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