A disgruntled Virginia Beach employee shot and killed 12 people on Friday inside the city’s municipal complex where he worked, before he was killed by police in a ferocious “running gun battle” with responding officers. The shootout limited what authorities said could very well have have been a much higher death toll.
Four police officers emptied all of their ammunition during a “long-term, large gun fight” in which officers were met with a barrage of shots. One officer was shot but saved by his armored vest, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cevera said.
Of the 12 people killed in what City Manager Dave Hansen called a “senseless incomprehensible act of violence,” 11 were city employees, some who had spent decades working for the city. They were the focus of a Saturday morning press conference in which each was identified and memorialized by Hansen.
As of Saturday afternoon four people were being treated for injuries at local hospitals, city officials said. Three were in critical condition and one was in stable. The officer who shot had been treated and released.
Police formally identified the gunman as 40-year-old DeWayne Craddock, a public utilities employee who city officials said had worked with the city for 15 years. He was employed at the time of the shooting though it was not clear if he had gone to work Friday before the shooting.
In identifying Craddock, Cevera went to great lengths to note that he would mention the gunman’s name once, and going forward he would only be referred to by authorities as “the suspect.”
Cevera declined to offer a motive for why Craddock arrived a little 4 p.m. Friday afternoon to the building where he worked carrying multiple guns and dozens of rounds of ammunition and waged a gun battle on all three floors of the building.
Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ATF recovered two .45 caliber handguns used by Craddock from the crime scene, said Ashan Benedict, the Special Agent in Charge of the local field office. One gun was purchased in 2016 and a second in 2018, and both by all accounts were purchased legally, he said. Authorities also recovered two additional weapons during a search of Craddock’s home. One of those guns was legally purchased, officials said, but did not have details on the second.
Craddock’s criminal record appears confined to traffic tickets and no felonies, according to public records, making him eligible to purchase firearms.
The police chief said the investigation is in its early stages and that the city was being helped by roughly 40 FBI investigators who had taken over processing the crime scene.
“This is a large scale crime scene. It’s a horrific crime scene,” Cevera said.
Craddock was listed as an engineer in the Virginia Beach public utilities department, according to official websites and news reports. State records show Craddock first received a professional engineer license in 2008. He graduated from Old Dominion University in 2002 with a degree in civil engineering, according to a 2003 biography posted on the website of a local engineering firm where he apparently used to work.
According the Virginia National Guard, Craddock enlisted in April 1996 and was discharged in April 2002. He was assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team as a 13B cannon crew member and held the rank of specialist by the time he left the service. He did serve in any overseas deployments.
Neighbors told local news reporters that his wife had left him some years ago and police said that he lived alone.
The shooting began when Craddock shot one person in a vehicle outside Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, which accommodates up to 400 workers in the utilities and public works departments, Cevera said. Craddock then entered the building using access available as an employee, he added.
“He had a security pass like all employees had and he was authorized to enter that building,” Cevera said, adding that the building where the shooting occurred is open to the public.
Armed with a .45-caliber handgun outfitted with a suppressor, Cevera said Craddock fired indiscriminately as he made his through all three levels of a building he knew well.
When the emergency call came out, four officers—two veteran supervisors from the detectives bureau and two canine handlers—immediately responded arriving “within minutes,” Cevera said. The city's police headquarters is among the buildings in the government complex where the shooting took place.
They located the gunman by the crack of gunfire as Craddock reloaded extended magazines in his handgun and fired at victims throughout the building, and at officers, Cevera said.
Officers exchanged fire down a hallway before they were finally able to shoot and kill Craddock. “The officers stopped this individual from committing more carnage in that building,” Cevera said.
“Even though he was involved in a long-term, moving gun battle with these officers, when he went down, they did what cops do and they rendered first aid to this individual,” he said.
The victims were found on all three floors and one outside, he said. Investigators worked through the night to identify the bodies, process the crime scene and turn corpses over to the medical examiner's office, which will hand them over to families for burial.
One officer was shot in his armored vest but will survive, Cervera said, adding the officers were recovering from seeing “what could best be described as a war zone.”
Mayor Bobby Dyer declared the shooting “Virginia Beach's darkest hour. A senseless crime happened and imposed tremendous grief on the people of Virginia Beach, the commonwealth, and the country.”
Megan Banton, who worked in the Public Works building where the shooting took place, told Channel 13 NewsNow she and about 20 of her colleagues barricaded themselves inside their offices with their desks. Banton said she heard gunshots, and police yelling for people to “get down.”
“I just don’t know why anyone would do something like that,” Banton told the station. “I don’t know what would possess somebody to come in and just start shooting at people.”
City Councilwoman Barbara Henley told The Virginian-Pilot that she pulled up to City Hall at around 4 p.m. when she heard sirens and saw police.
“I thought it was an accident,” Henley told the newspaper, adding that someone outside the building had told her to get out of the area.
She said she got back into her car and drove home after she heard someone yell, “Get down!”
“I was scared to death,” she said.
Henley said security had been “beefed up” in nearby city hall in response to shootings across the nation, but not all of the buildings in the complex.
—Adam Rawnsley contributed reporting