TORONTO (Reuters) – A group of “murderous misfits” planned a massacre on Valentine’s Day in Atlantic Canada’s largest regional shopping mall but the alleged plot was foiled by police after an anonymous tipoff, the justice minister said on Saturday.
Police charged two people with conspiracy to commit murder and released a third suspect in the alleged plot to shoot as many people as possible in the Halifax Shopping Centre. A fourth man linked to the plot was found dead in a house in Halifax, police said.
“Based on what we know so far, it would have been devastating, mass casualties would have been a real possibility,” Justice Minister Peter MacKay told reporters.
“The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism,” he said. In a sign of heightened tensions, streets around the mall were closed on Saturday evening as police blocked the entrances after reports of an active shooter.
That incident was related to “kids with slingshots” and seven youths were in custody, police said.
MacKay said a 19-year-old Canadian man and a 23-year-old American woman, believed to have been in contact online, allegedly planned a shooting at a public venue.
Police said on Friday they obtained information that suggested the two had access to firearms and intended to kill people, and then themselves.
“This appeared to be a group of murderous misfits that were coming here, or living here, and were planning to wreak havoc and mayhem on our community.”