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Maine man who bought rifle later used in N.S. shootings lied to police about purchase

A man from Maine admitted to lying to an RCMP investigator about the day he went to a gun show and bought a high-powered rifle with Gabriel Wortman, who used the carbine a year later when he killed 22 people in Nova Scotia, newly released documents show. 

New details about how the shooter obtained firearms are included in a report released Tuesday morning by the public inquiry examining the April 2020 massacre. The gunman never had a firearms licence and smuggled three weapons into Canada from Maine. 

Transcripts of RCMP interviews, released without redactions for the first time, shed light on how the shooter bypassed authorized dealers and arranged a private cash sale of a Colt Law Enforcement-brand carbine 5.56-mm semi-automatic at a gun show in Houlton, Maine, in April 2019.  

In the weeks after the shootings, police spoke with the gun’s sellers and Neil Gallivan, a man who lives outside Houlton and went to the show with Wortman the previous spring.  

‘I apologize … for the lies’

Gallivan initially claimed in an interview with RCMP Sgt. Fraser Firth that he didn’t remember details of that Saturday morning, denied going to the event with Wortman and then backtracked several times during the interview. 

Gallivan had previously spoken to U.S. investigators. Eventually he admitted to going to the show with Wortman, who he’d known for two decades. 

“I tried to save my own skin because I knew that was going to be big trouble,” he said to Firth about his earlier denials. “I apologize for the ah, for that — for the lies.”

It is illegal for an American to transfer, sell, trade, give, transport or deliver a firearm to someone they know is not a U.S. resident, but a CBC News investigation found charges seem unlikely for those who provided the gunman some of his weapons.

Gallivan was a lifelong friend of Sean Conlogue of Houlton. Both men told police they met Wortman through Tom Evans, a now-deceased lawyer from Fredericton. Over the years, they all spent time together at a camp 40 kilometres south of the border town.

Conlogue has admitted he was the source for two handguns the shooter appears to have used. Conlogue has said he gave one as a gift, and told police Wortman took the other from his home.

But while details have previously emerged about those two weapons, the records released Tuesday offer more information about the semi-automatic rifle.

Maine man who bought rifle later used in N.S. shootings lied to police about purchase
The gunman frequently stayed at his friend Sean Conlogue’s home in Houlton, Maine. Neil Gallivan told RCMP he went to Conlogue’s before and after buying a high-powered rifle at a gun show with the shooter in April 2019. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

In his RCMP interview, Gallivan went on to explain that on April 27, 2019, he stopped at Conlogue’s home to see about going to the show together. But since Conlogue was recovering from a surgery and Wortman was staying there to help, Gallivan went with the shooter instead.

It seems Wortman admired the gun in the morning but was unable to buy it, so he and Gallivan returned to the arena around noon, at which point Gallivan bought it for cash in a private sale. 

“It was quick and kind of dirty really. And I brought the gun back and gave it to Sean,” Gallivan said, according to a transcript. 

‘You’re selling him out’

In his RCMP interview, Gallivan was adamant that Conlogue handed him about $1,250 US cash for the “AR rifle” and he thought he was doing his friend a favour by buying it.  

At one point he speculated that Wortman stole the rifle from Conlogue, but then said he didn’t know how the gun ended up in Nova Scotia. 

“I wouldn’t sell it to [Wortman] anyway, I would never do that… how would he get it across the border?” Gallivan said at one point. “I did nothing wrong all along, just trying to be a good friend to everybody.”

Firth pressed him for the truth, pointing out that Conlogue was basically bedridden at the time due to his surgery. 

“You’re selling him out if you walk out of this room and make it look like Sean … had more involvement,” Firth said. 

The RCMP do not have jurisdiction to enforce U.S. laws and Firth told Gallivan the Mounties were “not interested in pursuing Canadian charges against you.” Earlier the same day, an RCMP investigator had told Conlogue they weren’t looking to hold him accountable.

Based on comments made by the Mounties in both interviews, they were in ongoing contact with American investigators while conducting their own interviews in Maine.

Maine man who bought rifle later used in N.S. shootings lied to police about purchase
Search warrant documents outline how the shooter used a Colt Law Enforcement-brand carbine 5.56 mm semi-automatic rifle and the gun came from Maine in 2019. (CBC News/Illustration )

Gallivan maintained that after the purchase they all looked at the gun together at Conlogue’s home and that later they visited Gallivan’s property and Wortman practised shooting it. 

Conlogue, in his RCMP interview, said he did not remember much about the day due to his health issues. He said Wortman paid for the gun and he saw him counting money at a desk in his home. He did not mention going to Gallivan’s. 

Gallivan said he knew the situation he was in with police was “his own damn fault” and repeatedly said he had no idea what Wortman was capable of. Near the end of his RCMP interview, he suggests he did give the gun to Wortman.

“I found the gun, I gave it to … Gabriel and he killed people with it. That’s awful,” Gallivan told RCMP. “I never had intention of this transpiring that way.”

Little paperwork 

One of the gun show’s organizers told CBC News that all authorized dealers selling firearms had to conduct FBI background checks, but the public inquiry found the person selling the carbine didn’t do that and had limited paperwork. 

Two men spoke to police about selling the rifle. One of them had been the gun’s owner and a second man, Don Dematteis, was helping at the gun show booth.

Maine man who bought rifle later used in N.S. shootings lied to police about purchase
The Houlton Rifle and Pistol Club’s 31st Annual gun show was held April 27-28, 2019. One of the organizers said about 700 passed through the arena over the course of the weekend. (The Houlton Rifle and Pistol Club/Facebook)

Dematteis later identified Wortman to police as a man who had approached him in the morning about buying the gun. He said he refused to sell it because the prospective buyer admitted he didn’t live in Maine, according to a summary of his interview released by the public inquiry. 

He recalled that a few hours later he sold the rifle to a man in his 60s who had a Maine licence. Dematteis said he gave the buyer a receipt but didn’t remember taking his name. 

Police recovered the semi-automatic carbine from the stolen Mazda 3 the gunman was driving when he was killed in Enfield, N.S. They found the gun’s switch selector was set to fire. It was outfitted with a flashlight and an over-capacity magazine that held 25 rounds. 

The public inquiry found that based on forensic analysis, the gunman used the rifle several times during the killing rampage.

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