Gunman used security pass, two .45-caliber guns to access and kill 12 at Virginia Beach municipal building

The gunman was killed during a long-running gunfight.

June 1, 2019, 4:11 PM

A longtime city employee entered a packed building of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center using his own security pass and wielding two .45-caliber guns as he went floor-to-floor "indiscriminately" killing 11 co-workers and a contractor before police shot him dead during a fierce gun battle, officials said on Saturday.

Eleven of the five women and seven men shot to death at the Municipal Center on Friday afternoon were city employees and the gunman who allegedly committed the killing spree was also a city engineer, authorities said.

The suspect, identified by police as DeWayne Craddock, 40, allegedly used two .45-caliber pistols in the rampage, Ashan Benedict, the special agent in charge of the Washington field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. He said both guns were purchased legally by Craddock, one in 2016 and the other in 2018.

Ashan said two other firearms that were legally purchased by the alleged gunman were seized from his apartment.

Virginia Beach city manager Dave Hansen, his voice cracking with emotion, identified the dozen people slain by the alleged gunman, whose motive for the massacre remained under investigation on Saturday.

Mourners pray on June 1, 2019, for the victims of the mass shooting, during an improvised vigil in a parking lot of a shopping center in Virginia, Beach, Va.
Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

"Sixteen hours ago the lives of 12 people were cut short by a senseless, incomprehensible act of violence," Hansen said at a news conference just after 8 a.m. Saturday morning. "Overnight, our chaplains, our human services and our family assistance staff and teams completed the most difficult task anyone will ever have to do: And that is notifying the next of kin. So today, we all grieve."

The family of the suspect posted a handwritten note offering condolences to the victims onto the front door of their home in Yorktown, Virginia.

“The Family of DeWayne Craddock wishes to send our heartfelt condolences to the victims," the note said. "We are grieving the loss of our loved one. At this time we wish to focus on the victims and the lives loss during yesterdays tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who loss their lives, and those recovering in the hospital.”

Victims in stable condition

Four of the victims wounded in the rampage remained hospitalized on Saturday.

Dr. Martin O'Grady, chief of the trauma department for Sentara Virginia Beach Hospital, said a total of five patients were brought to his emergency room and that one was dead on arrival while another perished soon after being brought to the hospital.

O'Grady said three patients were in stable condition at his hospital, and a fourth was in the intensive care unit of another hospital. He said one patient his staff is treating suffered "devastating" injuries and two had "significant" injuries. He said two of the patients underwent surgery.

A police officer, one of the first to arrive at the shooting scene, was hurt in the incident but was "doing well" on Saturday, said Virginia Beach police chief James Cervera, who added the officer's bullet-proof vest saved his life.

Suspect identified

Cervera identified Craddock as the gunman. He said Craddock, who lived alone, worked in the city's public utilities department for 15 years. He was killed during a gun battle with police.

The police chief said it would be the "only time we will announce his name."

"He was still employed," Hansen said of Craddock, clarifying earlier reports that the suspect had been fired. "He had a security pass like all employees have and he was authorized to enter that building."

Craddock enlisted in the Virginia National Guard in April 1996 and served for 17 years, Cotton Puryear, a spokesman for the Virginia National Guard told ABC News. Craddock had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment as a cannon crew member, but his records indicate he was never deployed overseas.

Court records show Craddock had no criminal history except for a traffic violation in 2013 in Virginia Beach.

Cervera declined to comment on a possible motive for the shooting, and Hansen refused to say if Craddock had recently been disciplined or was the subject of complaints to human resources.

12 killed named

An emotional Hansen read the names of the victims, saying he worked with many of them for years. He even served in the military with one of the victims: Richard Nettleton, a public utilities engineer for 24 years.

Nettleton was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army's 130th Engineer Brigade and served with Hansen in Germany.

A Virginia State Trooper guards a roadblock on June 1, 2019, at the scene of the mass shooting in the Virginia Beach Municipal center in Virginia, Beach, Va.
Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

"This morning, I had the responsibility to inform friends, co-workers and the public of those who lost their lives yesterday. All but one of the victims were employees of the City of Virginia Beach. I have worked with most of them for many years," Hansen said. "We want you to know who they were so in the days and weeks to come, you will learn what they meant to all of us, to their families, their friends and their coworkers. They leave a void that we will never be able to fill."

In addition to Nettleton, the victims were identified as Laquita C. Brown of Chesapeake, a public works right-of-way agent for 4 1/2 years; Tara Welch Gallagher of Virginia Beach, a 6-year public works engineer; Mary Louise Gayle of Virginia Beach, a public works engineer for 24 years and a right-of-way agent; Alexander Mikhail Gusev of Virginia Beach, a public works right-of-way employee for 9 years.

Also killed were Katherine A. Nixon of Virginia Beach, a public utilities engineer for 10 years; Christopher Kelly Rapp, a public works employee for 11 years; Ryan Keith Cox of Virginia Beach, a public utilities worker for 12 1/2 year; Joshua O. Hardy of Virginia Beach, a 4 1/2-year public utilities engineer technician; Michelle "Missy" Langer of Virginia Beach, a public works administrative assistant for 12 years; and Robert "Bobby" Williams of Chesapeake, a public utilities special projects coordinator for 41 years.

Independent contractor Herbert "Bert" Snelling of Virginia Beach, who was in the Municipal Center to file a permit, was also killed.

Cervera said investigators and forensic technicians, including 40 sent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, worked through the night to process the crime scene and remove the victims' bodies "with dignity and respect."

"This is a large-scale crime scene. It's a horrific crime scene and please understand it takes not only physical but an emotional and psychological toll on everyone who spent the night in that particular building," Cervera said.

He said that while combing the building for evidence, police recovered the two weapons used in the shooting.

President expresses condolences

President Donald Trump, who was immediately briefed on the shooting, said in a tweet on Saturday that he spoke with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the mayor and vice mayor of Virginia Beach on Friday night to offer his "condolences to that great community."

"The Federal Government is there, and will be, for whatever they may need. God bless the families and all!" Trump tweeted.

'Never thought it would be an employee'

The shooting erupted about 4 p.m. on Friday when Craddock allegedly gunned down one victim outside Building 2 of the Municipal Center as he entered the front door and continued the mass shooting.

"Once he engaged in this activity it just continued throughout the building," Chief Cervera said.

Cervera said about 400 people work inside the four-story Building 2 of the Municipal Center on any given day and that the suspected gunman "indiscriminately" fired at and killed employees on every floor, except the basement.

PHOTO: Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen speaks to the press on June 1, 2019, in Virginia, Beach, Va
Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen speaks to the press on June 1, 2019, in Virginia, Beach, Va.
Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

Cervera said it remained unclear if there were victims Craddock was specifically set out to kill.

"Whether it's an individual or not, we do have a large-scale number of victims that were killed by the suspect," Cervera said.

Ed Wheeden, a city employee, told ABC News that he was inside the building when he heard gunshots and a fire alarm sound.

He said he initially thought the shooter was a "disgruntled citizen upset about his tax bill or water bill."

"Never thought it would be an employee that you talk to daily," Wheeden said.

Another city employee, Megan Banton, said she and about 20 coworkers barricaded themselves in her boss' office. She said they pushed a desk in front of the door and hugged and held each other as the rampage was going on.

"My boss basically was like, 'This is not a drill. Get down, call 911,' and that's when I called 911," Banton told ABC News. "We all just ran in her office and closed the door. Basically, we just wanted to try and keep everyone safe as much as we could and staying on the phone with 911. We wanted to make sure they were coming. They couldn't come fast enough. It felt like hours."

Zand Bakhtiari, who also works in the building, said the carnage was evident immediately.

"We knew there were casualties because we saw some people getting wheeled by," Bakhtiari told ABC News. "Some of them weren't even in gurneys -- one dude was just lying on the back on the trunk of a cop car and they drove him to a secure area where the ambulance was."

Asked how well the building was secured, Cervera said, "It's an open government building. Citizens have the right to access open government buildings. Employees have a right to access their work site."

Hansen said that while there are no metal detectors, desks are stationed nearby for administrative assistants to work with the public.

"But all accesses to the inner offices and conference rooms are secured and require this [security] pass," he said, pointing to his own pass. "And, as I've told you, he [the gunman] was in possession of a pass."

'Long-running gun battle'

Cervera said officers responded to Building 2 within minutes of receiving the first 911 call.

He said two police officers, identified as detective supervisors, and two K-9 units rushed to shooting scene from the police station across the street, about 100 to 150 yards away and were met by people rushing out.

"Officers had to make instantaneous decisions on how to engage the suspect," Cervera said. "They did it miraculously because ... they did save other lives," he said.

Cervera said the officers quickly tracked down the suspect and engaged in a "running gun battle with this individual" that lasted less than 30 minutes before officers shot the gunman to death.

He said that while Virginia Beach police officers had trained for a large-scale active shooter incident on March 30, "once you enter an environment such as this, things change in minutes."

"You cannot replicate the intensity of an environment such as this," Cervera said.

He said there were no words exchanged between the gunman and police during the gunfight.

"They didn't have any engagement with him verbally," Cervera said. "Once they identified him and he identified them, he immediately opened fire. We immediately returned the fire and again, I want everyone to know, this was a long-term, for lack of any other term, long-running gun battle with this individual. This is not what is traditionally a police-involved shooting. This was a long-term, large gunfight."

As police investigated the shooting, members of the public joined outside the scene of the massacre Saturday and formed a prayer circle. Several vigils are being planned in churches throughout Virginia Beach.

ABC News' Whit Johnson, Halley Freger, Ahmad Hemingway and Sarah Shales contributed to this report.