A longtime, disgruntled city employee opened fire at a municipal building in Virginia Beach on Friday, killing 12 people before police fatally shot him, authorities said.
Six other people were wounded in the shooting, including city employees and a police officer whose bulletproof vest saved his life, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera said.
Five patients were being treated at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital and a sixth was being transferred to the Trauma Center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Healthcare tweeted.
Cervera identified the shooter as a disgruntled employee of the Public Utilities Department. He did not release the gunman’s name and declined to speak to his motivation.
Christina Pullen, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Norfolk, said the bureau was assisting.
The shooter opened fire in Building 2 of the municipal center, which is adjacent to City Hall. The building houses the city’s public works, public utilities and planning departments, according to City Councilwoman Barbara Henley, who arrived at City Hall building about 4 p.m. Friday just after the shooting.
Arthur Felton was inside the building when the shooting occurred. The 49-year-old employee of Virginia Beach’s planning department said he heard about the shooting from one of his colleagues.
“She told us she heard gunshots,” Felton said.
Felton and about 20 others on the first floor quickly left the building around 4:15 p.m.
“When she told me that, we listened to her,” Felton said. “We didn’t want to take a chance.”
As Felton and the others departed, police officers began arriving in the parking lot, he said. From a distance, Felton said he saw what looked like employees carrying out a wounded person.
“I’m in shock. I’m pretty sure I know a good majority of those who were shot and injured,” he said.
Megan Banton, an administrative assistant who works in the building where the shooting happened, said she heard gunshots, called 911 and barricaded a door.
“We tried to do everything we could to keep everybody safe,” she said. “We were all just terrified. It felt like it wasn’t real, like we were in a dream. You are just terrified because all you can hear is the gunshots.”
She said she texted her mom, telling her that there was an active shooter in the building and she and others were waiting for police. Banton works in an office of about 20 people that is part of the public works department.
“Thank God my baby is OK,” said Banton’s mother, Dana Showers.
At a nearby middle school, friends and relatives were reuniting with loved ones who were in the building when the shooting happened. They included Paul Swain, 50, who said he saw his fiancee from across the parking lot, clearly in an agitated state.
“I think she knew some of the people,” he said.
Times staff writers Melissa Etehad and Melissa Gomez and the Associated Press contributed to this story.