Update: Victims and suspect identified below.
They can only be described as four heroes.
We’re talking about the officers who confronted a shooter inside a Virginia Beach city building on Friday.
On Saturday, we learned that the four officers engaged the shooter in a “long gunbattle”. And according to the police chief, that’s the only thing that stopped him from slaughtering more people.
Police Chief James Cervera said the suspect was a disgruntled employee who had access to the building and fired on multiple floors Friday afternoon. It left at least 12 people – including the shooter – dead and four other hospitalized.
Chief Cervera said four officers were the first to respond to the scene – two were detectives and two were K9 handlers from the special operations unit. They ran into the building and followed the sound of gunfire to the suspect, then immediately opened fire.
“I can tell you that it was a long gunbattle between those four officers and that suspect,” Cervera said in a news conference.
He said it was drawn out for quite some time.
“Many times when we talk about an officer-involved shooting situation it may be minimal rounds by the suspect and by the police officers. This was well beyond that,” Cervera said. “The best I can describe it (is) this was long-term gunbattle for police officers.”
The chief confirmed that a .45 caliber pistol, a suppressor and several empty, higher-capacity magazines were all found by the killer, but he didn’t mention anything about a rifle.
The chief said the suspect fired a number of times “from various places down the hallway that the officers at one time returned.”
One of the officers was shot but saved by his bulletproof vest, Cervera said. He was taken care of at the scene and then brought to the hospital.
The chief said the suspect eventually went down “due to his injuries” after the extensive battle with officers. The officers “immediately rendered first aid” to the gunman as he was being removed from the building and taken to awaiting EMS personnel.
“I need to say that a second time,” Cervera said. “Even though he was involved in a long-term gunbattle with these officers when he went down, they did what cops do and they rendered first aid to this individual.”
The chief said he later “succumbed to his wounds”. He said the scene was like a ‘war zone’.
“We train not only as first responders for police, but we train with fire and we train with our EMS personnel because we know that when you have a major scene like this you’re going to need all first responders,” he said. “So we do train extensively.”
On Saturday, Virginia Beach Police oidentified DeWayne Craddock, a 40-year-old city public utilities engineer, as the the suspect.
Cervera spoke at a morning news conference and said it would be the only time his name is mentioned publicly by law enforcement.
Craddock was an engineer at the Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities for 15 years, according to police, and worked in the city’s water and sanitary sewers branch. Police say he was still employed with the department at the time of the attack, which contradicts reports by CNN and The Wall Street Journal that described him as a “disgruntled employee” who had been recently terminated.
Cervera said that in case there’s ever an active shooter situation, officers, EMS and fire personnel, they are all “unfortunately” highly qualified. But he said Friday’s event will change the lives of many responding officers forever.
“I have a number of officers right now who are processing through what best could be described as a war zone,” Cervera said. “Their lives are going to be changed.”
“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.”
Authorities identified the 12 victims killed on Saturday, 11 of them were city employees:
Laquita C. Brown, of Chesapeake – who worked as a right-of-way agent at Public Works for 4.5 years.
Tara Welch Gallagher, of Virginia Beach – who worked as an engineer at Public Works for six years.
Mary Louise Gayle, of Virginia Beach – who worked as a right-of-way agent at Public Works for 24 years.
Katherine A. Nixon, of Virginia Beach – who worked as an engineer for Public Utilities for 10 years.
Richard H. Nettleton, of Norfolk – who worked as an engineer with Public Utilities for 28 years.
Christopher Kelly Rapp, of Powhatan – who worked as an engineer with Public Works for just 11 months.
Ryan Keith Cox, of Virginia Beach – who worked as an account clerk with Public Utilities for 12.5 years
Joshua A. Hardy, of Virginia Beach – who worked as an engineering technician with Public Utilities for 4.5 years.
Michelle “Missy” Langer, of Virginia Beach – who worked as an administrative assistant with Public Utilities for 12 years.
Robert “Bobby” Williams, of Chesapeake – who worked as a special projects coordinator with Public Utilities for 41 years.
Herbert “Bert” Snelling, of Virginia Beach – who worked as a contractor.
Alexander Mikhail Gusev, of Virginia Beach – who worked as a right-of-way agent for Public Works for nine years.