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 sound suppressor, and extended-capacity magazines.
The gunman apparently shot and killed his first victim in a car outside the three-story building where he worked for the public utilities department, known as Building 2. Then, using his badge to enter the employee-only area of the building, he went floor to floor firing on his co-workers indiscriminately, according to police. By the end, he had killed 12 people and wounded another four in the attack — three of whom were still in critical condition as of Saturday.
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 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, four police officers responded to shooting just minutes after the first report of it came in at 4:08 p.m. At about 4:19 p.m., police located and confronted the gunman, fatally wounding him after what Virginia Beach police chief James Cervera called a “long-term, large gunfight.” One officer was also shot in the battle but was saved by his bulletproof vest. The entire attack 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.”
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 mass shooting.
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.
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 refused to discuss any possible motive, or details that might suggest one, while the investigation is still under way — but refuted earlier unconfirmed reports that he had been fired from his job. At least one anonymous Virginia government official has referred to Craddock as a “disgruntled employee,” but that characterization has not been confirmed, as of Saturday, either.
Police Chief Cervera said when he released the shooter’s name that the police would only be referring to his name that one time and never again — in order to keep the focus on the victims. As of Saturday, authorities have not released a photo of Craddock, who is black.
On Saturday, an ATF official said that Craddock had purchased both of the .45-caliber handguns he used in his attack legally in 2016 and 2018. Police found two more weapons in a search of his home, and the one they have identified records for was also purchased legally. At least one of the guns he used in his attack was equipped with a sound suppressor, and police found multiple spent extended-capacity magazines for the handguns at the scene of the attack.
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, as of Saturday, 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.