In Aftermath of Fatal Attack, Virginia Beach Public Works Resumes Operations
As investigators seek motives in the May 31 mass shooting incident at Virginia Beach, Va.’s municipal center complex by a public works project manager that left 11 other employees and a visiting contractor dead and four injured, officials and industry leaders are weighing long-term safety implications in public-access areas.
After a week of funerals and mourning for colleagues, about 400 workers in the city's Public Works, Public Utilities, Planning, and Information Technology departments returned to work June 10 in temporary cubicles and other work spaces in other city buildings.
Building 2, the site of the attacks by former city engineer DeWayne Craddock, will remain closed as police probes continue, for at least the next six months, said public works spokesman Drew Lankford. He said the FBI, which had about 72 investigators assigned, have completed work and turned over the building to local police.
Two of four injured employees have been released from the hospital. Two others are are believed to be in serious condition, said Lankford, who declined to release identities.
One was identified in a June 10 local TV report as Melanie Coffey, a stormwater management division director.
Just hours after emailing his resignation as city engineer, Craddock, a nine-year city employee, went on a rampage at the complex’s public works building with two .45 caliber pistols and extended magazines, until he was fatally wounded by police.
Some at the complex initially thought the incident that was unfolding was part of an active shooting drill, intended to help prepare city office workers. One witness told police he thought Craddock was simulating the role of the “active shooter” when he passed by without firing his weapon.
Police also were hampered by lack of access to the complex's electronic security to subdue the assailant, whose floor-by-floor shooting spree lasted 36 mnutes, said a June 5 Associated Press report.
The Virginia Beach employees killed in the shooting were public works right-of-way agents LaQuita C. Brown, Alexander M. Gusev and Mary Louise Gayle; public works engineers Tara W. Gallagher and Christopher K. Rapp; and Katherine A. Nixon and 28-year city veteran Richard H. Nettleton, both public utilities engineers.
Also killed were Ryan Keith Cox, a public utilities accounts clerk; Joshua O. Hardy, a public utilities engineering technician; Michelle “Missy” Langer, a public utilities administrative assistant; and Robert “Bobby” Williams, special projects coordinator for public utilities and a 41-year city employee.
The local contractor killed was Herbert “Bert” Snelling, a project manager for Virginia homebuilder Eagle Construction, who was at the complex to obtain a certificate of occupancy, said the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
For more details on those killed, click here.
Lankford said "it is still too early" for enactment of significant changes in building access or security.
He said, that among other operations changes, the city was allowed a 90-day extension of its November deadline for completion of a report on municipal sea-level rise impacts under an $800,000 federal FEMA grant.
Immediately after the shooting, Steven J. Yob, Henrico County, Va., director of public works and immediate past president of the 900-member Mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Public Works Association, said “we lost a number of colleagues … in this senseless act of violence.”
Gusev, Gallagher and Nettleton also were current or recent members of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Christopher Penny, president of ASCE’s Norfolk group, confirmed also that wounded city employee Kayaode Aransiola is active in ASCE.
“We will stand together as the engineering community,” Amit Tilak, also an ASCE chapter president, said in an email.
Police, family and others who knew Craddock had not determined publicly what triggered the violent attack. Responsible for overseeing water and sewer projects, he was considered an employee in good standing, city officials said, with no official workplace disciplinary issues.
His brief resignation letter cited only “personal reasons” for leaving.
Virginia Beach officials have yet to announce specific new security measures or procedures for the municipal center complex, which mostly reopened June 4.
“It is a difficult decision for policymakers,” says APWA Executive Director Scott Grayson. “It is so unfortunate that our members trying to improve the quality of life for others need to fear for their lives at work.”
He said that at the upcoming APWA conference, to be held September 8-11 in Seattle, “we are considering holding an active shooter training workshop.
One city engineer who had been in the building and knew many of the victims told ENR: "My personal opinion is that it could not have been prevented because the employee had card key access to his department."
He added: "The Public Works department has open access. Selective card key access would have prevented the assailant from entering offices."
Lawrence C. Bank, a noted academic researcher in structural engineering and public policy advocacy, said "it is time that engineers, especially civil engineers who design and build buildings we live and work in, expand our definition of what design for 'life-safety' is."
He added that "it is time to devote the next 100 years to the safety of building occupants to anthropogenic hazards in buildings, from intentional attacks with handguns, explosives or biochemical agents to unintentional consequences of poor spacial and structural design. We need to devote more attention to studying non-structural elements to improve occupant well-being in buildings."
Thousands attended a June 6 public memorial service for the 12 people killed at which Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and other state officials spoke.
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