Virginia Beach Honors Victims of Deadly Mass Shooting

June 2, 2019 Updated: June 2, 2019

A day after a mass killing that took the lives of 11 Virginia Beach public servants and one contractor, the city honored each by releasing the years of service he or she provided before perishing at the hands of a disgruntled employee on May 31.

The 12 victims served the local community for a combined 150 years. One victim worked for the city for 41 years. Four worked as engineers, and three were right-of-way agents. The others included a technician, a special project coordinator, an account clerk, and an administrative assistant. All but one, a contractor, were city employees.

“They leave a void that we will never be able to fill,” said City Manager Dave Hansen, who had worked for years with some of the victims.

Police Chief James Cervera identified the killer as 40-year-old DeWayne Craddock. City officials have vowed to only utter his name once.

The local officials decided to release more details about the victims than the killer—at least initially—to limit the criminal’s exposure and prevent copycat shootings. Some experts say this public information approach can help stop the cycle of mass killers citing other mass killers. Others say it’s the act of the mass killings that inspires copycats, not the actors themselves.

Craddock used legally purchased handguns in the attack; he died after a protracted shootout with the police.

Craddock worked as an engineer for the city’s utilities department for 15 years.

Joseph Scott, a co-worker, said he passed Craddock in the men’s restroom about five minutes before the mass killing.

“He was in there brushing his teeth, which he always did after he ate,” Scott said. “I said ‘Hey, how you doing? What are you doing this weekend?’ It was just a brief conversation.”

Scott left for the day after that, and only learned of the massacre after getting a call from another co-worker checking to see if he was OK.

“I couldn’t believe that it happened,” Scott said.

Police found the victims throughout the building, on three different floors. Six worked in the same department as Craddock.

Christopher Kelly Rapp of Powhatan, one of the victims, had joined a Scottish pipe band last fall.

“Chris was reserved but very friendly, quietly engaging members one-on-one after our weekly practices,” the band, Tidewater Pipes & Drums, said in a statement.

Another victim, Mary Louise Gayle of Virginia Beach, was described by a neighbor as a “super sweet lady” who always had a big smile.

“She would always be out there in the yard, working on something and talking to my daughters,” John Cushman told The New York Times.

The other victims were identified as Tara Gallagher, Alexander Gusev, Katherine Nixon, Ryan Cox, Joshua Hardy, Michelle Langer, Laquita Brown, Robert Williams, Richard Nettleton, and Herbert Snelling of Virginia Beach. At least three of the people wounded were still hospitalized on June 1.

The killer shot indiscriminately, according to authorities.

Government investigators identified two .45-caliber pistols used in the attack, said Ashan Benedict, the regional special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. All indications were that the shooter purchased the weapons legally, one in 2016 and one in 2018, Benedict said. The police chief said at least one of the guns had a noise suppressor.

Scott said he worked in a different division from Craddock, whom he described as a quiet, polite, and “nice guy.” Scott said he thought Craddock was in good standing at work and had never heard negative reports about him.

A handwritten note was posted June 1 at the suspect’s home, expressing condolences to the shooting victims on behalf of Craddock’s family.

Hundreds of people attended prayer vigils for the victims on June 1. Amanda Archer, 22, and Cassetty Howerin, 23, lived in a Virginia Beach townhome beneath Craddock for the past year and only got to know him in passing, exchanging the occasional greeting.

“He wasn’t much of a talker,” Archer recalled. “He’s a mystery to us. He’s a mystery to everybody, apparently.”

President Donald Trump visited the McLean Bible Church on June 2 to pray for the victims.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
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