The 12 people who were fatally shot in an attack on a Virginia Beach government building were remembered Saturday during a somber news conference and prayer vigil as officials sought to put the focus on the victims and not the gunman.
Police Chief James Cervera identified the assailant as DeWayne Craddock, who was employed for 15 years as an engineer in the city’s utilities department. He declined to comment on a motive for Friday’s rampage, which ended with Craddock’s death in a gun battle with police. City officials uttered his name just once and said they would not mention it again.
City Manager Dave Hansen had worked for years with many of the dead, he said. Eleven of them were city employees; the 12th was a contractor seeking a permit.
Their names and photos were projected on a screen as Hansen read aloud biographical information, including their hometowns and years of service. “They leave a void that we will never be able to fill,” he said.
Chaplains and family assistance workers notified relatives through the night — a job Hansen described as “the most difficult task anyone will ever have to do.”
One of the slain employees had worked for the city for 41 years. Six worked in the same department as Craddock, though authorities have declined to say whether anyone was specifically targeted or whether he had issued threats before. The victims were found throughout the building, on three floors, police said.
Authorities say Craddock opened fire indiscriminately. Four people were wounded, including a police officer whose bulletproof vest may have saved his life.
The suspect was armed with a .45-caliber handgun with a noise suppressor, police said. Cervera said more weapons were found at the scene and at his home.
Two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that the gunman had made multiple legal firearm purchases recently, and that the guns recovered at the scene were purchased legally. The officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Asked how secure the building was, the police chief said that government buildings must balance access with security.
“It’s an open government building. Citizens have the right to access open government buildings. Employees have a right to access their work site,” he said.
Security passes were required to enter inner offices, conference rooms and other work areas. Craddock would have had a pass for the inner offices, Hansen said.
The 11 city employees who were killed were identified as Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Ryan Keith Cox, Joshua A. Hardy and Michelle “Missy” Langer of Virginia Beach; Laquita C. Brown and Robert “Bobby” Williams of Chesapeake; Richard H. Nettleton of Norfolk and Christopher Kelly Rapp of Powhatan. The contractor killed was Herbert “Bert” Snelling of Virginia Beach.
Craddock, 40, was an engineer who graduated from Denbigh High School in nearby Newport News in 1996 and joined the Army National Guard, according to a newspaper clipping. He received basic training and advanced individual training at Ft. Sill, Okla. He later graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
Craddock appeared to have had no felony record, which would have made him eligible to purchase guns.
Joseph Scott, an engineering technician with the Department of Public Works, said he had worked with Craddock before and had a brief interaction with him Friday. Scott said he saw him in the men’s restroom about five minutes before the shooting.
“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 said he left for the day right after and learned of the shooting when a co-worker and then his son called to ask whether he was OK. “I couldn’t believe that it happened,” he said.