SWAT team drills at site of Virginia Beach mass shootings

A Virginia Beach SWAT team conducted a training exercise in the same building where 12 people were shot and killed in a mass shooting

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A SWAT team in Virginia conducted an exercise Wednesday in a building where a gunman killed 12 people in a mass shooting last spring, rekindling memories and stirring anxiety among the few workers who were inside, a newspaper reported.

The Virginia Beach SWAT team showed up Wednesday morning at Building 2 to train with at least one K-9 on the abandoned floors in the Municipal Center building where the shooting occurred, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Information Technology staff complained they could hear yelling and barking on the upper floors while they were trying to work on the first floor, giving some of them flashbacks to May 31, when a longtime city engineer shot 16 people in the building before police killed him.

City police spokeswoman Linda Kuehn said she was not aware of the training. Capt. John Thomas Orr emailed IT staff to apologize. He said police had reached out to a designated point of contact for Building 2 prior to the training exercise and notified the City Manager’s Office and Emergency Communications.

“I am sorry if we caused anyone any distress,” Orr wrote in the email obtained by The Virginian-Pilot. “We do not anticipate utilizing any Municipal Center buildings for any police training during normal business hours for the foreseeable future.”

More than 10 city employees still work in the building, which is next door to City Hall and accessible to only select individuals. Todd Grissom, a systems analyst for the city who works on the first floor, said police have occasionally used the site for training for more than a month and no one has given lower level employees prior warning. He said the city has been insensitive to the workers who were not mentally prepared to see SWAT in full gear.

Grissom decided to avoid the office Wednesday after his boss sent an email shortly before 9:30 a.m. saying staff could work from home due to the police training.

“When they show up out of the blue, it does tend to cause anxiety amongst staff," Grissom said. "This disregard is a little hurtful.”