VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Reuters) – The gunman who killed 12 people at a Virginia Beach municipal building before dying in a shootout with police was identified on Saturday as a disgruntled city engineer and co-worker of most of the victims.
Police evacuate people from a building in this still image taken from video following a shooting incident at the municipal center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S. May 31, 2019. WAVY-TV/NBC/via REUTERS
All but one of the victims from Friday’s mass shooting in the coastal resort community were employed by the city, officials said, while the other was a contractor seeking a permit. Four people were wounded.
The gunman, DeWayne Craddock, had worked for the city’s public utilities department for about 15 years, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera said at a news conference. He declined to comment on any possible motive.
“This is a large-scale crime scene, it’s a horrific crime scene,” Cervera said, adding that investigators who spent the night inside the building endured a “physical, emotional and psychological toll.”
It was the worst mass shooting in the United States since November 2018, when a dozen people were slain at a Los Angeles-area bar and grill by a gunman who then killed himself.
Bodies were found on all three floors of the Virginia Beach building and in a car parked outside, according to authorities.
Police said the gunman used an employee pass to enter secure areas before firing “immediately and indiscriminately” on his victims with a .45 caliber handgun equipped with a “sound suppressor” device and multiple extended ammunition magazines. They said more weapons were found at the scene and at Craddock’s home.
Two police supervisors from a building across the street arrived within minutes, Cervera said, and they were quickly joined by two police dog-handlers. The suspect was killed after a lengthy gun battle.
The victims who worked for Virginia Beach had been employed for between 11 months and 41 years. Six worked in the public utilities department and five were employed in the public works department.
City Manager Dave Hansen said he had worked with most of them for years. “They leave a void that we will never be able to fill,” Hansen told reporters.
A number of vigils are planned to commemorate the victims.
(Graphic: Major mass shootings in the United States – tmsnrt.rs/2KefvTT)
The bloodshed unfolded at Building Two of the municipal center complex on Friday afternoon as workers prepared to leave for the weekend. Some survivors recounted how they cowered in fear after stacking desks against office doors as makeshift barricades.
Three of those wounded were in stable condition at the Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, the hospital’s Dr. Martin O’Grady said at a news conference. Two had wounds so severe that they would have died if not treated quickly, he said.
The condition of the fourth victim at another hospital was not immediately known. A police officer who was shot was saved by his ballistic vest, Cervera told reporters.
The police chief said he would only name the gunman once, and would hereafter only refer to him as “the suspect.”
According to local media, Craddock was 40 years old and had no serious criminal record.
He served in the Virginia National Guard from 1996 to 2002, and was assigned to a Norfolk-based battalion as a cannon crew member, a guard spokesman said, adding that Craddock’s records do not indicate any overseas deployments.
The scene of the shooting lies several miles inland from the town’s popular seashore, situated on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia’s most populous city has roughly 450,000 year-round residents.
Virginia Beach police had trained for a mass shooting, and had even planned to hold a citizen workshop on active shooter situations on Saturday. The workshop was canceled.
On Saturday, Melissa Millemon, a daycare worker, and Tina Devault, who works for a heating and cooling company, were among local residents who came to the shooting site to lay flowers, American flags, and other tributes to the victims.
Both said they either knew someone who had been killed or had a friend or acquaintance who knew one.
“One of my friends lost her neighbor,” Millemon said, adding that a member of the local softball community was also killed.
“It’s a sad day,” Devault said.
Reporting by Gary Robertson in Virginia Beach; Additional reporting and writing by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Paul Simao and Chris Reese