The lone gunman, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, "moved across the northern part of the province and committed what appears to be several homicides," Royal Canadian Mounted Police [RCMP] Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said. A possible motive was unclear. At one point, he apparently disguised himself as a police officer, investigators added.
At least one officer died and another suffered injuries, according to Brian Sauvé, the president of the National Police Federation union.
Investigators said earlier that they took Wortman into custody before later adding that he died. They did not give specifics.
Police said the incident began late Saturday in the tiny town of Portapique, initially reporting "multiple victims" and describing the suspect as possibly disguised as a mountie.
Wortman's name was released about nine hours after an initial tweet around midnight asking people to avoid the Portapique area and stay indoors as officers responded to a firearms complaint.
About three hours later, police tweeted that Wortman had been taken into custody at a gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia.
Several building fires were reported as well, but police didn’t immediately confirm details.
"My heart goes out to everyone affected in what is a terrible situation," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
“I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia,″ Premier Stephen McNeil said. “This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history.”
He added that it was an additional “heavy burden” amid efforts to contain the coronavirus.
As police were seeking Wortman, they tweeted that he may have been driving what appeared to be an RCMP vehicle and wearing an RCMP uniform. Police said he was not a mountie.
A Gabriel Wortman is listed as a denturist in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, according to the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia website, The Associated Press reported. A suspect photo issued by the RCMP reportedly matched video footage of a man being interviewed about dentures by CTV Atlantic in 2014.
Tom Taggart, a lawmaker in the municipality of Colchester, said the shooting shook the otherwise quiet community.
"This is just an absolutely wonderful, peaceful quiet community and the idea that this could happen in our community is unbelievable," Taggart said by phone from his home in Bass River, near the lockdown area.
"People live here because of the peace and quiet and it's just an absolute tragedy," he added.
Taggart said he didn't know Wortman well, but spoke to him a few times when he called about municipal issues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.