HOUSTON (FOX 26) - This week’s panel: Wayne Dolcefino – media consultant, Carmen Roe – Houston attorney, Bob Price – Associate Editor of Breitbart Texas, Mustafa Tameez – Democratic consultant and FOX 26 political contributor, Muchelle Byington – conservative attorney, Keir Murray – Democratic strategist, discuss the recent mass shooting in VIrginia Beach.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - June 2, 2019 Four were engineers who worked to maintain streets and protect wetlands. Three were right-of-way agents who reviewed property lines. The others included an account clerk, a technician, an administrative assistant and a special projects coordinator. In all, they had served the city of Virginia Beach for more than 150 years.
These 11 city employees and one contractor were wiped out Friday when a fellow city worker opened fire inside a municipal building. A day after the shooting, city officials sought to honor them by sharing their job titles and years of service in a somber slideshow.
"They leave a void that we will never be able to fill," said City Manager Dave Hansen, who had worked for years with many of the dead.
Police Chief James Cervera identified the assailant as DeWayne Craddock, who had been employed for 15 years as an engineer with the city's utilities department. He declined to comment on a motive for the rampage, which ended with the shooter's death in a gun battle with officers. City officials uttered his name just once and said they would not mention it again.
Joseph Scott, an engineering technician with the utilities department, said he had worked with Craddock and had a brief interaction with him Friday, passing 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 him asking if he was OK.
"I couldn't believe that it happened," he said.
One of the dead employees had worked for the city for 41 years. Six worked in the same department as the suspect, though authorities have declined to say if anyone was specifically targeted or if the suspect had issued threats before. The victims were found throughout the building, on three floors, police said.
The municipal building was open to the public, but security passes were required to enter inner offices, conference rooms and other work areas. As a current employee, Craddock would have had the pass to enter the inner offices, Hansen said.
In response to a reporter's question, Cervera said the gunman had not been fired.
One of the dead, Christopher Kelly Rapp of Powhatan, enjoyed Scottish music and joined a pipe band last fall. He played with the group in October during a Celtic festival in Virginia and marched with bandmates on St. Patrick's Day.
"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 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, Gayle's next-door neighbor, told The New York Times.
The other employees who were killed were identified as Tara Welch Gallagher, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Ryan Keith Cox, Joshua O. Hardy and Michelle "Missy" Langer, all of Virginia Beach; Laquita C. Brown and Robert "Bobby" Williams, both of Chesapeake; and Richard H. Nettleton of Norfolk. The 12th victim, Herbert "Bert" Snelling of Virginia Beach, was a contractor who was in the building to seek a permit.
The police and fire departments were to assign members of their honor guards to help each victim's family.
Authorities have said the shooter fired indiscriminately. At least three other people who were wounded remained hospitalized Saturday.
Craddock appeared to have had no felony record, making him eligible to purchase guns.
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 had a noise suppressor.
City officials scheduled another news conference for Sunday morning.
Craddock, 40, graduated from Denbigh High School in nearby Newport News in 1996 and joined the Army National Guard, according to a newspaper clip from the time. He received basic military training and advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He later graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.
Scott said he worked in a different division from Craddock, whom he described as quiet, polite and a "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 Saturday at the suspect's home expressing condolences to the shooting victims on behalf of his family.
Hundreds of people attended Saturday prayer vigils for the dead. Scott said he, his wife and several others prayed for the shooter too.
"He was a human too, and his family is hurting too," Scott said. "He's not evil ... he was just another guy who had problems."
Neighbors described Craddock as a car enthusiast and bodybuilder.
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."
Associated Press writers Regina Garcia Cano, Michael Biesecker, Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C.; Michael Kunzelman in Virginia Beach; and Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
The shooter who killed 12 people in a government office building in Virginia Beach used a firearm equipped with a suppressor that muffles the sound of gunfire. It's the nightmare scenario that gun-control advocates have warned about amid efforts in recent years to ease restrictions on the devices, which they say can help shooters escape detection and inflict more carnage.
But gun-rights advocates and most law enforcement experts say DeWayne Craddock's use of a suppressor likely had no bearing on his ability to kill so many people in so little time Friday.
Virginia is among 42 states that allow residents to purchase and possess suppressors, though some cities and towns - including Virginia Beach - prohibit them.
Known colloquially as a "silencer," a suppressor was attached to the .45-caliber handgun that police say the shooter used to kill a dozen people on three floors of the building where he worked before police closed in and, after a protracted gunbattle, fatally shot him.
That could at least partially explain why survivors of the attack said they were caught off guard and initially puzzled by what was happening. One described hearing something that sounded like a nail gun.
"This is the concern we were talking about when Republicans were trying to deregulate silencers as 'ear protection,'" said David Chipman, a retired agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and now the senior policy adviser with Giffords, a gun-control lobbying group.
"Especially on a handgun, a suppressor will distort the sound in such a way that it would not immediately be recognizable as gunfire to people who sort of know what that sound is."
Others say the shooter's use of a silencer was less of a factor in enabling him to carry out the rampage than was his familiarity with the building and even possibly his military background, both of which may have given him a tactical advantage.
"A suppressor does not alter the lethality of the weapon at all. All it does is just limit the noise it makes," said Gregory Shaffer, a retired FBI agent who was a member of the bureau's elite Hostage Response Team. "It doesn't increase the rate of fire. It doesn't do anything other than make it more comfortable to shoot because it's not so loud."
It's not immediately clear how long Friday's attack lasted, or how much time passed before the first police officers arrived. The police department is in the same complex as the building where the shooting took place.
It also wasn't yet known how Craddock got the suppressor he used on his handgun, though authorities have said he legally purchased multiple firearms recently.
Authorities have three days to conduct a background check when someone is buying a firearm. But suppressors are regulated by the National Firearms Act, which also governs the sale of machine guns, and the extensive background check can take upward of eight months or more before the sale can go through.
Despite the barriers, suppressors have gained in popularity. In 2008, when West Valley City, Utah-based SilencerCo was formed, about 18,000 of the devices were being sold each year. The company, which controls an estimated 70 percent of the market, sells roughly that many each month.
Nicknamed "cans," the devices were invented in the early 1900s by MIT-educated Hiram Percy Maxim, who also invented a muffler for gasoline engines. They were brought under NFA regulations after Depression-era game wardens expressed concern that hunters would use them to poach.
A suppressor does not eliminate the sound a gun makes but generally diminishes it by 20 to 35 decibels, leaving most guns still louder than your average ambulance siren.
"Clearly this was an individual who did understand and have experience with firearms and had given potentially some forethought into the advantage that using a suppressor would offer him, particularly the suppressor coupled with the caliber of weapon he was using," said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association and a retired law enforcement officer with the Colorado Springs Police Department, where he oversaw a SWAT division.
Some have questioned how secure the building was where police say the shooter and all but one of his victims worked. A government facility, the building is open to the public, but security passes are required to enter inner offices, conference rooms and other work areas, officials said.
As a current employee, the shooter would have had such a pass and would have known the floor plan, areas that were "easy to control," where the best places to hide were and how to move quickly from one area to another, Eells said.
While responding police might have had some familiarity with the building, it's very possible the shooter knew it a lot better after working there for years.
His protracted gunfight with law enforcement officers would indicate that he "was in a place that was difficult for officers to access or engage," Eells said.
"Whether that was happenstance or intentional, it's too early to tell."