Twelve people were killed and four injured when a longtime city-government employee opened fire on his co-workers at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Friday — the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. this year and since 12 people were killed at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, last November. Below is everything we know so far.
The Attack and Target
America’s latest mass-shooting massacre began a little after 4 p.m. on Friday at one of the buildings that make up the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach — a city of about 450,000 people on Virginia’s southeast coast. The gunman, a 40-year-old municipal employee later identified by police as DeWayne Craddock, came armed with two .45-caliber handguns, at least one of which he had equipped with a silencer, and extended-capacity magazines.
The gunman killed his first victim in the parking lot of the three-story building where he worked for the public utilities department, known as Building 2. A local contractor, Herbert Snelling, who had come to fill a permit in the building, was later found dead in his car. The shooter then killed a woman who was leaving the building. He then used his employee badge to enter staff-only area on the second floor, where he began firing on his co-workers indiscriminately, according to police. By the end, he had murdered 12 people and wounded another four in the attack — three of whom were still in critical condition after multiple surgeries on Sunday.
Witnesses later said that the shooting quickly prompted confusion and panic, with some people fleeing the scene and others attempting to barricade themselves inside offices — along with what is now the standard practice of potential mass-shooting victims calling or texting their loved ones while they wait to see if they live or die. At least one person was seen jumping out of a second-story window to escape. One witness said the shooting sounded like automatic gunfire at one point.
It is still not clear if using a silencer on his handgun allowed the gunman any advantage in the attack.
As the city’s police department was only hundreds of feet away, two pairs of police officers responded to shooting just minutes after it was first reported at 4:08 p.m. After they entered the building, it took less than ten minutes for the four — two plainclothes detectives and two K-9 unit uniformed officers — to locate the gunman, on the second floor. A “long-term, large gunfight” followed, according to Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera, involving dozens of rounds fired. One officer was shot in the battle, but was saved by his bulletproof vest. When the shooter stopped firing — police determined that he had barricaded himself in an office, then breached the door. The gunman had been wounded in the standoff, and though the officers attempted to save his life, he later died on route to the hospital.
By the time police subdued the shooter, the entire attack had lasted about 40 minutes, according to an analysis of the police-scanner traffic during the incident.
It was a “horrific crime scene,” Cervera said on Saturday, explaining that handling the aftermath had taken “a physical, emotional, and psychological toll on everyone who spent the night in that building.”
All but one of the dead were city employees, while the one person who wasn’t was a local contractor who had been inside dealing with a permit. Building 2 housed most of the departments that managed operations for the city, including public works, public utilities, planning, and permits and inspections, among other responsibilities. About 400 public servants typically work in the building, according to the Virginian-Pilot, but some had apparently already left for the weekend by the time of the attack, which may have limited the carnage. The Virginia Beach Municipal Center, located in the city’s Princess Anne area, was built in 1822 and comprises about 30 Colonial-style brick buildings housing the independent city’s government.
Building 2 was also the closest building to City Hall, which was just hundreds of feet away. Employees there were told to hide under their desks once security personnel learned of the attack. A city councilwoman told the Virginian-Pilot the city had recently boosted security at City Hall in response to the nationwide epidemic of mass shootings, but that the level of security varied from building to building at the Municipal Center. After the attack, the complex looked like a war zone, Police Chief Cervera told reporters.
Mayor Bobby Dyer said on Friday night that the attack involved “our friends, co-workers, neighbors, [and] colleagues” and marked “the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach.”
Some of the 12 workers killed in Friday’s attack had worked for the City of Virginia Beach for decades. They included men and women, both white and black, and across a range of ages. As the Associated Press pointed out on Saturday, all told, the victims had provided more than 150 years of public service between them. Six worked in the same department as the gunman.
Ryan Keith Cox saved the lives of several coworkers before he was gunned down. Christi Dewar told the Virginian-Pilot that he led her and some of their coworkers into a break room, told them to stand against the wall, and stood guard. “If at all possible, I knew he was going to lead us to safety. We felt safe. He stayed calm. He didn’t have any anxious thought in his voice,” she said.
When it looked clear, Cox told them to lock themselves in while he went to look for victims. “I said, ‘Keith, come on,’” Dewar said. “He said ‘I’ve got to see if anybody else needs help.’ He said. ‘Barricade the door. Do it now.’”
They shut themselves in and everything was quiet for a moment – then they heard gunshots. “Two bullets almost came through the back of the cabinet,” Dewar told NPR. “We fell to the ground; then we heard other shots close to us. … That’s when he got Keith.”
Dewar visited Cox’s parents a day after the shooting to tell them their son died a hero.
These are the 12 victims:
Laquita C. Brown 39, was a public works right-of-way agent who had worked for the city for four years.
Ryan Keith Cox was a public utilities account clerk who had worked for the city for 12 years, and he was known for his powerful singing voice in the choir at his church, where his father still serves as pastor.
Tara Welch Gallagher had worked in the public works department for six years.
Mary Louise Gayle had worked in the public works department for 24 years.
Alexander Mikhail Gusev, 35, was an immigrant from Belarus who earned a degree in civil engineering and went from being a lumber worker to serving as a right-of-way agent at the public works department, where he’d been for nine years.
Joshua O. Hardy had been working as an engineering technician in the public utilities department for four years.
Michelle “Missy” Langer, who recently turned 60, had been working as an administrative assistant at the public utilities department for 12 years. Prior to that, the Ohio native loved visiting Virginia Beach so much on vacation that she finally decided to move there.
Richard Nettleton had worked at the public utilities department for 28 years and helped lead multiple engineering projects for the city over that time.
Katherine A. Nixon, who was in her early 40s, had worked as an engineer at the public utilities department for ten years and came from a family of civil engineers, according to the Washington Post. She was the city’s senior engineer in charge of the utilities department’s regulatory compliance.
Christopher Kelly Rapp had been working as an engineer for the public works department for 11 months and played in a bagpipe band in his free time.
Herbert “Bert” Snelling, 57, was a Virginia Beach–based contractor who was the only victim who didn’t work for the city. He was at Building 2 to fill a permit at the time and was reportedly both a husband and a father.
Robert “Bobby” Williams was a special projects coordinator who had worked at the public utilities department for 41 years.
Of the injured — who remain unidentified — three remained in critical condition as of Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Two were expected to survive, but a medical official has called the other victim’s injuries “devastating.”
DeWayne Craddock was a 40-year-old certified professional engineer at the Virginia Beach public utilities department, where he had worked for 15 years, according to city officials. Nothing is yet known or confirmed about why he attacked his co-workers on Friday. Police have not suggested or speculated on any possible motive, or details that might suggest one, citing the ongoing investigation into his professional and personal life. “We do not have anything glaring,” Virginia Beach Police Chief Cervera said Sunday.
Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen announced on Sunday that Craddock had resigned from his job earlier Friday, apparently via email, but had not been fired nor was he in danger of being fired. At least one anonymous Virginia government official has referred to Craddock as a “disgruntled employee,” but that characterization has not been confirmed. Hansen said that Craddock was in “good standing” at the public utilities department, his work performance was considered “satisfactory,” and there were no ongoing disciplinary issues regarding him. Officials did not share any details about the contents of his resignation email.
Police Chief Cervera said, when he released the shooter’s name, that the police would not continue using it in order to keep the focus on the victims. Authorities have not released a photo of Craddock, who is black.
The shooter had no criminal record beyond a single traffic offense, and served in the Virginia National Guard from 1996 to 2002, when he was discharged at the rank of specialist.
Most of the reporting about the gunman has consisted of casual observations from shocked neighbors, which don’t reveal anything more than “He kept to himself”–like remarks. One co-worker, who said he had talked to Craddock earlier Friday, before the shooting, recounted that exchange and his memory of the shooter to CNN:
Joseph Scott, an engineering technician, said he exchanged pleasantries with the quiet, 40-year-old certified professional engineer for the city in the bathroom shortly before the carnage.
“I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said he was doing OK,” Scott remembered. “I asked, ‘Any plans for the weekend?’ And he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, have a good day.’ And he said the same to me.”
Scott went home for the day. There was no sign of what was to come.
“I’m sure I’m going to hear all kinds of things about DeWayne, but I liked him,” Scott told CNN. “I worked with him. He was what I thought was a good person. When we were together, we would talk about family, friends, things that we were going to do, trips we were going to take and things like that.” …
Scott said he doesn’t want Craddock “painted as an evil person — something happened, but it wasn’t his nature,” adding that he lost many friends Friday.
The Shooter’s Weapons
On Saturday, an ATF official said that Craddock had legally purchased both of the .45-caliber handguns he used in his attack — one in 2016 and the other in 2018. Police found two more weapons in a search of his home, and the one they have identified records for was also purchased legally. Craddock also used a sound suppressor, or silencer, in the attack, as well as extended capacity magazines.
Both silencers and extended magazines are legal in Virginia, though obtaining a silencer — which is a federally regulated legally can take months and requires a background check, though tens of thousands are sold are still every month in the U.S. It is not yet clear how Craddock got his. On Sunday, the Associated Press talked to some experts about whether or not using a sound suppressor helped the gunman kill more people. Silencers reduce the sound a gun makes when it is fired, but do not increase the weapon’s lethality, accuracy, or rate of fire. Recreational shooters sometimes use the device to make shooting less noisy and more comfortable. But it also seems likely that using a silencer, which can reduce the sound of gunshot by as many as 35 decibels, would have made it more difficult for the potential victims to realize they were facing an active shooter and respond accordingly. One witness said the gunshots sounded more like a nail gun, per the AP.
A bill to ban the sale of extended magazines in Virginia was defeated in January after the state’s Republican lawmakers blocked it.
Local Police Had Offered Regular Active Shooter Trainings for Years
“You don’t prepare for something like this — it’s a nightmare no one wants to actually live through,” Mayor Dyer said on Friday, but the police department had been actively trying to prepare the community for such an event for years. Police had even scheduled an active-shooter training session for community members on Saturday morning, per a 13/ABC local news report published a few hours before the attack:
During the workshop, officers will show you how to recognize dangerous situations and you’ll learn how your body responds. Also, people who choose to participate will practice “no-skills needed” maneuvers to fight off a gunman.
[Virginia Beach master police officer David] Nieves said he wants his community to feel empowered by this class. “I love this city, I love this community. I’m part of it.”
With hundreds of these presentations under his belt, Nieves wants to make potential active shooters think twice.
“Hopefully shooters realize maybe Virginia Beach is not the place because the citizens will be ready for them.”
Nieves began conducting the trainings seven years ago, after the Sandy Hook shooting, and initially offered it at workplaces and municipal offices before bringing it to the general public two years ago. Just like mass shootings, those types of trainings, as well as active-shooter drills, are increasingly becoming a regular part of American life. At the same time, Friday’s attack happened literally across the street from City Hall and the police department in Virginia Beach, and while city authorities presumably did everything they could, as fast as they could, in response — and that saved lives — they couldn’t prevent the deaths of another 12 people in yet another American mass shooting.
This post has been updated to reflect new details about the shooting and shooter.