A Virginia Beach employee shot and killed 12 people inside the city’s municipal complex where he worked on Friday, authorities said. The death toll would have been greater if not for a ferocious gun battle with cops that killed the gunman.
Four police officers emptied all of their ammunition at the suspect, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cevera said at a press conference late Friday night. One officer was shot but saved by his armored vest, Cevera said.
Four people are being treated for injuries at local hospitals, he said.
The shooter was a longtime utilities employee, according to Cevera, who said he would name the suspect at a later time. Cevera declined to offer a motive, citing the investigation’s early stages.
Multiple news outlets identified the suspect as DeWayne Craddock, 40.
Craddock was listed an engineer in the Virginia Beach public utilities department, according to official websites and news reports. State records show Craddock first received a professional engineer license in 2008. He graduated from Old Dominion University in 2002 with a degree in civil engineering, according to a 2003 biography posted on a local engineering firm where he apparently used to work. His criminal record appears confined to traffic tickets, according to public records.
The shooting began shortly after 4 p.m. when the gunman shot one person in a vehicle outside Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, which accommodates up to 400 workers in the utilities and public works departments, Cevera said. The suspect entered the building using access available as an employee, he added.
Armed with a .45-caliber handgun outfitted with a suppressor, Cevera said the suspect fired indiscriminately on multiple levels of the building.
When the call came out, four officers immediately responded: two veteran supervisors of the detectives bureau and two canine handlers, Cevera said.
They located the gunman by the crack of gunfire and began what Cevera described as a “long-term gun battle.”
“The suspect was reloading extended magazines in that handgun, firing at victims throughout the building, and at our officers,” Cevera said.
Officers exchanged fire down a hallway and mortally wounded the suspect.
“The officers stopped this individual from committing more carnage in that building,” Cevera said.
Victims were found on all three floors and one outside, he said.
“Even though he was involved in a long-term moving gun battle with these officers, when he went down, they did what cops do and they rendered first aid to this individual,” Cevera said.
One officer was shot in his armored vest but will survive, he said, adding the officers were recovering from seeing “what could best be described as a war zone.”
“Today is Virginia Beach’s darkest hour,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said. “A senseless crime happened and imposed tremendous grief on the people of Virginia Beach, the commonwealth, and the country.”
Megan Banton, who worked in the Public Works building where the shooting took place, told Channel 13 NewsNow she and about 20 of her colleagues barricaded themselves inside their offices with their desks. Banton said she heard gunshots, and police yelling for people to “get down.”
“I just don’t know why anyone would do something like that,” Banton told the station. “I don’t know what would possess somebody to come in and just start shooting at people.”
City Councilwoman Barbara Henley told The Virginian-Pilot that she pulled up to City Hall at around 4 p.m. when she heard sirens and saw police.
“I thought it was an accident,” Henley told the newspaper, adding that someone outside the building had told her to get out of the area.
She said she got back into her car and drove home after she heard someone yell, “Get down!”
“I was scared to death,” she said.
Henley said security had been “beefed up” in nearby city hall in response to shootings across the nation, but not all of the buildings in the complex.
— Adam Rawnsley contributed reporting