12 Killed In Shooting At Virginia Beach Municipal Complex

A dozen people died late yesterday in a workplace shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

Late yesterday afternoon, twelve people were killed and many others injured by a shooter who appears to have been a disgruntled employee:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va., was turned into a scene of carnage on Friday afternoon after a longtime public utilities employee began firing indiscriminately at his co-workers with a handgun, the authorities said, killing a dozen people and injuring several others before dying after an extended shootout with the police.

It had been nearing closing time in an office offering some of the most mundane functions of city government, such as paying water bills and applying for building permits, when the employee began stalking through several floors firing at his colleagues, the authorities said.

The loud bursts of gunfire sent workers scrambling and barricading their office doors.

Zand Bakhtiari, 28, who works on the first floor of the city building where the shooting happened, looked out his window about 4 p.m. and saw people screaming and running. “I thought they were running to the scene of a bad car accident,” he said in a telephone interview late Friday.

At that point, he had not heard any gunfire. But right after that, his boss, who had just left, called in an order to shelter in place: There was an active shooter. Mr. Bakhtiari and others in his office shut the door and got down.

He then heard 50 to 60 gunshots. “It was a lot of shots,” he said. Five or 10 minutes later, a police SWAT team came and led them out.

The identities of the victims were not immediately released nor was the motive of the attack. One of those injured was a police officer, who was saved by his bulletproof vest, said Chief James A. Cervera of the Virginia Beach Police Department, who said at an evening news conference that the scene could “best be described as a war zone.”

Bodies were found on all three floors of the building, the chief said. One of the deceased was discovered outside in a car.

He called the shooting a “devastating incident” that “none of us want to be here talking about,” adding that it was “going to change the lives of a number of families in our city.”

Chief Cervera said the gunman, whom he declined to name, was carrying a .45-caliber handgun, with several extended magazines. He had a suppressor on the weapon to muffle the sound, the chief said. The gunman was wounded after an exchange of fire with the police, who later issued first aid on him. But he succumbed to his injuries.

The shooting took place shortly after 4 p.m. within the sprawling Virginia Beach Municipal Center, a campus of city offices and agencies, including the Police Department. The attack unfolded on multiple floors in Building No. 2, which includes offices for planning and public works, among others, and is adjacent to City Hall. At the scene, bystanders fled for safety and officers converged in large numbers.

“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said at an evening news conference.

“The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbors, colleagues,” he continued before his voice trailed off and he bowed his head.

(…)

“This day will not define Virginia Beach,” a City Council member, Aaron Rouse, said at the news conference. “We will show the strength of our city.”

Another Council member, Barbara Henley, told The Virginian-Pilotthat she had been pulling up to City Hall when she heard police sirens and saw police cars. After initially thinking it was an accident, she heard a male voice shout “Get down!” and saw people scattering.

“I was scared to death,” she said.

All over Virginia Beach, residents were trying to process such horror on what had been the close to a normal week. “Pleasantville is no more,” said June P. Kates, a former teacher and resident of Virginia Beach who lives in a retirement community nearby. She said she had been to the municipal center many times.

“It’s so sad. It’s just so sad,” she said. “I just think it’s the saddest thing I can imagine.”

Eerily, the police had scheduled a community workshop for Saturday morning on how to prepare for a mass shooting. The “active threat citizens defense” event had 36 people scheduled to attend, according to the department’s Facebook page.

“Having to face an armed individual with bad intentions is every person’s worst nightmare. You can’t stop crazy, you can only respond to it,” said a brochure for the workshop published by the local ABC News affiliate.

More from The Virginian-Pilot:

A longtime city employee shot and killed 12 people and injured at least four others after opening fire Friday afternoon in the public works building, making it the country’s deadliest mass shooting this year
Police said officers killed the man, whom they did not name, after he fired at them in the city’s scenic Municipal Center in Princess Anne, a campus of about 30 brick Colonial-style buildings.

The four injured were all in surgery Friday, Police Chief James Cervera said during a news conference a couple of hours after the massacre.
One officer was shot during the exchange but was saved by his bulletproof vest, the chief said.

“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said in the news conference. “The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbors and colleagues.”

Friday’s rampage is believed to be the worst mass killing in Virginia Beach’s history. Prior to this week, a shooting on June 30, 1994, at the Witchduck Inn held that distinction: Four people — the business owner, two employees and a patron — were shot to death at the restaurant. It also came on the heels of a shooting in Chesapeake’s Holly Cove community over Memorial Day weekend that left one dead and nine others injured.

In the U.S., it is the deadliest attack since the November 2018 shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in California, when 12 people were killed. 

The gunfire in Virginia Beach began shortly after 4 p.m. as workers were preparing to leave for the weekend. The shooting occurred in building 2, next to City Hall near the intersection of Nimmo Parkway and Princess Anne Boulevard. The planning, public utilities, public works departments and others are located there. The three-story brick building on Courthouse Drive houses about 400 workers.

Many of the employees work out of small office spaces along long hallways. The doors are typically unlocked and open to the public.

The shooter on Friday was a current employee of the public utilities department, Cervera said. He came armed with a .45-caliber handgun with a sound suppressor on it and shot one victim in a vehicle outside before entering the building. The rest were shot inside.

Cervera said police found victims on every floor of the building.  
Four officers responded, found the gunman almost immediately and then initiated what became a long gunfight with the suspect, Cervera said. After an officer shot the suspect, they administered first aid.

Virginia Beach police are investigating with help from the FBI and state police, he said. They’re still working to identify victims and contact family members. They’re also still working to notify the suspect’s next of kin. Once that is done, Cervera said, his department plans to name the suspect only once out of respect for the victims.

Cervera said the city offices now resemble a “war zone.”

Later reports identified the shooter as DeWayne Craddock, a 40-year-old man who has been employed by the City of Virginia Beach for at least fifteen years. Initially, it was reported that he had been fired recently but that does not appear to have been the case. He reportedly carried out the shooting with .45-caliber handgun and was equipped with multiple high-capacity magazines which were either utilized during the attack.

I’ve been to the Municipal Complex where this shooting took place. It is a sprawling complex that includes pretty much all of the city offices including the Police Department and the city’s Courthouse as well as other city-related buildings. It is a sprawling complex with several buildings each one of which has multiple entrances. To get into the Courthouse at least, one must pass through metal detectors. Since he was still employed with the city, Craddock had a security pass so he was apparently able to get past whatever security may have been in place in the building where the shooting took place. It’s fortunate, though, that police were able to stop him when they did because he could have caused even more carnage had he gained access to other parts of the complex.

At the moment at least it is unknown what the motive for the attack may have been, although the fact that the shooter had recently been fired is obviously a starting point for any such inquiry. Also unknown is how the shooter may have obtained the gun and magazines that were used in the attack, although given Virginia’s rather loose regulation of guns and handguns particularly it’s likely that all of the implements used in the crime were obtained legally since it does not appear the Craddock had a criminal record of any kind. Also yet to be answered is the question of whether or not there were any warning signs of this attack or whether Craddock had any mental health issues that might have been a warning that he could be a danger to himself or others.

In any case, as is typically the case in these situations, this incident is likely to lead to yet another round of focusing on the nation’s gun laws even though its unclear if any such laws could have prevented this shooting at all.

Update: Authorities have identified the twelve people killed in the shooting, all but one of whom were employees of the City of Virginia Beach.

This post was updated to reflect information communicated by authorities during a Saturday morning press conference.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Guns and Gun Control, Law and the Courts, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. drj says:

    this incident is likely to lead to yet another round of focusing on the nation’s gun laws even though its unclear if any such laws could have prevented this shooting at all.

    Obvious straw man.

    Gun laws can never prevent each and every individual shooting, but they can prevent most.

    Laws are effective in the aggregate. Otherwise we would have no murder, no traffic accidents, and no salmonella outbreaks. But thanks to laws, we do have fewer instances of those occurrences.

    And that, obviously, is worthwhile in itself.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Thawts and brayers.

    its unclear if any such laws could have prevented this shooting at all.

    That is nonsense. Might there have been a shooting anyway? Maybe. Maybe not. What is certain is that if a law making the possession of high-capacity magazines punishable by 5 years in prison and the manufacture of them punishable by 25 years in prison woulds make the number of them in circulation plummet and the price for the few remaining skyrocket to such an extent that somebody living on a municipal workers salary could never afford one, much less 3 or 4. If he hadn’t had those magazines there’s a fair chance some of the wounded and dead wouldn’t be.

    What is also certain is that doing nothing guarantees there will be more mass shootings.

    PS: Some years back I was sitting in a barbershop half listening to a conversation between 2 regulars when I heard,

    “Outlawing expanded mags is ridiculous!”
    “Yeah! You know how long it takes me to change mags?”

    At which point I butted in with, “Long enough to stop Jared Loughner.”

    Not another word about expanded mags.

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  3. JohnMcC says:

    @drj: “Laws are effective in the aggregate….Thanks to laws we do have fewer” such disasters.

    I think it’s referred to as “civilization” by those fortunate enough to live in places that employ that technique.

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  4. Mike says:

    Sadly just another day in the US. Thousands more guns bought and sold today. Let’s just make sure we don’t change any laws. Don’t even try. Pray it away.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    Reynolds has commented that the problem is culture and this will change when the culture changes. There are signs of a change, Salesforce software not supporting semiauto sales, many stores limiting gun sales, the NRA follies. At minimum, a ban on extended magazines and silencers would be a signal that at least some parts of our gun culture are unacceptable.

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  6. Guys,

    I’ve made clear in the past that I’m with you as far as at least some gun law changes are concerned, such as enhanced background checks. Also I’ve been saying since the Gabby Giffords shooting that we need to re-evaluate how we deal with mental health issues in this country and need to do a better job at identifying mentally ill people who may be a threat to themselves or others.

    At the same time, I have no real confidence that we’ll see any serious effort to address any of these issues. If the murder of nearly two dozen first graders isn’t going to spur action on this issue isn’t going to spark action, then nothing will.

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  7. MarkedMan says:

    Yes, changes to laws would help reduce the carnage. But that isn’t all we can do and it wouldn’t be enough on its own. The complete and total failure of the gun community to police itself is a huge part of the problem. People in this community regularly hear and promote extremist rhetoric and dangerously paranoid rantings and they all just ignore it. Many of the people in the gun community are very quick to say Muslims should turn in the extremists in that community, and they are correct in this. But the same applies to their own community. The gun community has developed a sick and depraved culture, resembling a deadly fantasy of Mad Max and bearing no resemblance to the hunting and gun safety culture that existed for centuries in this country.

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  8. Lynn says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “we need to re-evaluate how we deal with mental health issues in this country and need to do a better job at identifying mentally ill people who may be a threat to themselves or others.”

    Psychology is not, unfortunately, an exact science. I spent several years working in a prison, conducting treatment programs for sex offenders and doing evaluations for the parole board. My evaluations generally involved psychological testing, interviews with the inmate, a careful reading of his file, and discussions with officers in the inmate’s unit. There was no way that I could have said, with certainty, that a given individual would/would not reoffend.

    We could probably make sure that most of those who were likely to become violent were locked up. The risk of false positives (locking up non-violent individuals), however, would be high. I prefer not to have people incarcerated based on guesses, however well informed. I once evaluated an individual in the county jail for capacity to stand trial on a misdemeanor charge. He had no history of violence or of making threats. My conclusion was that he did not appear capable of participating meaningfully in his own defense, but that he did not appear to be a danger to himself or others. He was arrested 5 months later for beating an individual who was withdrawing money at an ATM

    We certainly need to provide better mental health services in the US, but expecting mental health professionals to identity potential offenders is unrealistic.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: Correct. This gun culture is a parallel to anti-abortion. Abortion rights weren’t a huge deal until holy roller preachers and unscrupulous politicians found they could profit from it. Gun culture was hyped into it’s current state by grifters: the NRA, gun manufacturers, the people who make and sell things like silencers and extended magazines, etc.; and by unscrupulous Republican politicians who can only be elected by exacerbating any cultural difference they can find.

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  10. Kathy says:

    1) I challenge everyone on the right, and others who think the whole issue of mass shootings is a mental health problem, to come up with a system to impart access to mental health to everyone. Put up, or shut the fuck up and get out of the way.

    2) Here’s some help: if mental health is such a big issue involving mass shootings, then let’s have a psychiatric evaluation for every gun purchase, as well as regular evaluations every few years in order to keep one’s firearms.

    3) I wouldn’t be surprised if the NRA attempted to portray mass shootings as victimless crimes.

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  11. @Lynn:

    I acknowledge all of what you said, as well as the fact that imposing more obligations on mental health providers to report “dangerous” people to the authorities poses the danger of creating a disincentive for people who need help to seek it out. I think one of the things that could help would be if we could do something about the stigma that is still associated with mental health issues generally.

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  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    @gVOR08:

    At minimum, a ban on extended magazines and silencers would be a signal that at least some parts of our gun culture are unacceptable.

    1. Silencers are currently regulated the same way machineguns are and have been since the 1930s
    2. You obviously don’t know what silencers actually do. Unlike the way they’re portrayed in movies, they don’t make the gun completely silent or unidentifiable as a gun firing
    3. Not only should silencers not be banned, they should be required as standard safety equipment, as they prevent hearing damage

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  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kathy:

    then let’s have a psychiatric evaluation for every gun purchase

    This is basically saying “I think only wealthy, white people should have access to firearms”.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    Freedom corpses.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon: How are steel tariffs affecting gun prices? I expect they are more expensive, but you don’t hear about this.

    Just tying together some of today’s threads — I never thought about it until just now.

  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:

    I have no idea, as I haven’t been in the market for a firearm in 15 years, but my guess would be that they probably aren’t affecting prices much because there’s so many used firearms available that prices are very inelastic.

  17. Lynn says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I agree that ending the stigma associated with mental health problems would be generally helpful. But, to the best of my knowledge, most people with mental health problems do not pose a danger to others, although they may well pose risks to themselves. Where reducing the stigma may have a very real impact is in reducing the number of suicides.

    There are those who claim that 50% or more of mass shooters have MH diagnoses, but I’m not yet convinced. And I’m not alone in my skepticism. In Mass Shootings and Mental Illness, Kroll and Annas state: “Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths.”

    And another thing to consider: is someone with a narcissistic or psychopathic personality disorder going to seek mental health treatment? How about someone who is paranoid, with or without schizophrenia? Some things can be treated with medication, certainly, although forcing compliance may be an issue; however, I’ve yet to see effective treatment for personality disorders.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Also I’ve been saying since the Gabby Giffords shooting that we need to re-evaluate how we deal with mental health issues in this country

    Every time there is a mass shooting somebody brings up the issue of mental health as a contributing factor. As far as I know pissed offedness is something most of us go thru from time to time but I’m not sure it can be defined it as a mental condition. I’m pretty sure most of us are able to manage our episodes of pissed offedness without the intervention of medical professionals.

    Really, just because you can not imagine why or how a person could commit such a heinous act does not mean that person is suffering from a mental illness. Sometimes they are perfectly sane. Sometimes they are just complete assholes. With a lot of high powered firearms and thousands of rounds of ammo.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Billy Collins wrote a fine poem about why he does not own a gun.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    1. https://www.nrafamily.org/articles/2018/2/7/how-to-buy-a-suppressor/
    2. Silencers drop the sound some 20 or 30 dB and may have made it harder for people in the building to recognize gunshots.
    3. Wear earplugs.
    If you must pull the NRA trick of saying my criticism is wrong because I called a magazine a clip, try harder. And when I was a gun owning little kid in rural ND everybody called them “clips”.

  21. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: We do need to handle mental health a lot better, but for reasons that have nothing to do with guns. You’re right that mental health is an NRA red herring and that the real problems are a gun culture that prods people to have four pretend assault rifles and three handguns readily at hand and laws that facilitate them.

  22. Stormy Dragon says:

    @gVOR08:
    1. Yes I know. That’s the procedure for buying any NFA weapon. When “step 1. start your own corporation” is considered the EASY way of obtaining it, it’s a highly regulated item.
    2. Look at the witness descriptions. Everyone is talking about how much gunfire they heard. No one is saying “I had no idea what was going on because it was just so quiet”.
    3. If we banned car mufflers, gas mileage would improve and it would be easier for people to recognize when traffic is coming. Everyone who thinks they’re too loud can just wear earplugs.