At least 11 people were killed and several others hurt after a longtime municipal employee in Virginia beach opened fire inside a public works building Friday afternoon.
City officials said in an evening news conference that the man was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.
ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION-municipal center, building 2. Multiple injuries. At this time it is believed that only 1 shooter, and they have been taken into custody. More to follow
— Virginia Beach PD (@VBPD) May 31, 2019
Among six others wounded was a Virginia Beach police officer, who was saved by his protective vest.
Police Chief Kames A. Cervera said the gunman, whom he did not identify, “fired indiscriminately” on several floors of the building, one of many in a complex near the center of the city.
“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said. “People involved friends, co-workers, neighbors, colleagues.”
It started at about 4 p.m., near the end of the workday, as workers were winding down for the weekend.
City Councilman Aaron Rouse took to Twitter:
“Pray for our City!” Councilman Aaron R. Rouse said, “This day will not define Virginia Beach. . .We will come together.”
Gov. Ralph Northam came to the scene and called it “a horrific day for Virginia.”
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families,” Northam said.
This is a tragic day for Virginia Beach and our entire Commonwealth. My heart breaks for the victims of this devastating shooting, their families, and all who loved them. I am on my way to Virginia Beach now and will be there within the hour.
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) May 31, 2019
Megan Banton works in the public works building where the shooting started.
She said she was on the second floor of the building when her supervisor heard a loud noise and told people to run into her office.
About 20 people huddled on the floor after the barricaded the door with a desk as the sound of gunshots continued.
“We kept hearing gunfire,” Banton said. “We were trying to keep as quiet as possible.”
She said some people in the office were crying, while others were just silent.
The municipal center is a wide spread compound that houses more than 30 buildings and annexes. They include city hall, courts and offices for multiple city departments.
Information about those killed slowly trickled out as relatives of victims were told to gather at a middle school for updates.
The medical examiner’s office, police and other public safety workers were busy processing the huge crime scene and working to identify the victims Friday night.
Active shooter situation update:
One patient to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.
One patient at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance is on the ground.
— Sentara Healthcare (@sentarahealth) May 31, 2019
It’s not yet clear what the conditions of the surviving victims are. Give patients were sent to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital and one was rushed to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.
Banton told local media she has an 11-month-old baby boy at home and she sat wondering if she would ever see him again.
“You never think this is going to happen to you. when it happens to you, it’s totally different,” Banton said.
Sheila Cook was in the court house building in the complex and told a local television news station she heard muffled gunshots but knew it wasn’t in her building.
According to Cook, police acted quickly to let people know when the shooter had been stopped.
“That was enough to make me feel safe enough to come outside and that God was with us,” she said. “I’m feeling shaken and relieved at the same time.”
Cervera said there was not yet any word about why the shooting happened or how it unfolded, although it appeared to be quick. The chief said officers entered the building shortly after the first calls and confronted the gunman. The FBI is now assisting in the investigation.
“There is no way to describe an incident such as this,” Cervera said. “The suspect was immediately confronted.. . .our citizens can rest easy tonight. We do not have someone out in the community to do more harm.”