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Vigils Continue For 12 People Killed In Virginia Beach Shooting

Jun 3, 2019
Originally published on June 3, 2019 6:43 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Officials in Virginia Beach are still searching for a motive in the shooting that killed 12 victims last week. Late on Friday afternoon, city workers were shot in their workplace. Police say the gunman was himself a longtime city employee who was later killed after a shootout with police.

NPR's Brakkton Booker has this report from yet another city trying to cope with the aftermath of a mass shooting.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) Oh, say, can you see by...

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: The municipal complex in Virginia Beach today is the site of yet another vigil. They've been ongoing here since the tragedy on Friday. At this ceremony, Virginia public school employees pay tribute to those who were killed in a building just a few hundred yards away. Aaron Spence is the superintendent for Virginia Beach Public Schools. He, like so many others here, is struggling with the senselessness of the killings.

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AARON SPENCE: We did not and could not imagine what happened on Friday. Fathers and mothers, daughters and sons and brothers and sisters, neighbors - twelve people came to a building right next to ours on Friday, and they did not return home, and they will never go home.

BOOKER: The attendees gathered here are wearing shades of blue, a sign of community solidarity.

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SPENCE: And I want to thank you for wearing blue today - so many shades. I see the blue of grief. I see the blue of the uniforms of the men and women who rushed towards danger and save lives every day.

BOOKER: Spence says he hopes that from this place of loss and pain, that Virginia Beach can restore a sense of gratitude and kindness. Then he began to read all 12 names of those who were killed.

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SPENCE: Lakita C. Brown.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Lakita C. Brown.

SPENCE: Ryan Keith Cox.

BOOKER: Hearing the names read aloud really hit Nicole DeVries. She and other school administrators had come to the municipal complex today, but she's bracing for what it will look like tomorrow. That's when most of the other city workers return to the complex. They'll come to work under a heavy police presence. There's also a large makeshift memorial here. It's decorated with flowers and teddy bears and messages of sorrow along with a dozen crosses, one for each of the victims.

NICOLE DEVRIES: You can't help when you work in this complex to look right next door and see, you know, the police presence and the presence of the crosses and the flowers and - that is very both comforting and saddens us. So we'll continue to honor and support our co-workers as best we can when they come back.

BOOKER: Still, this Virginia Beach community, as so many others have had to do, is trying to put the pieces back together. And many people here just want to know why this shooting happened - police do, too.

Virginia Beach officials say DeWayne Craddock informed his supervisors in an email Friday morning that he was quitting. Just this afternoon, officials released that email. It was brief. Craddock said he wanted to put in his two weeks' notice. He also said that it had been, quote, "a pleasure to serve the city." But he added that he had to leave the position for personal reasons. City officials say he returned to the building around 4 p.m. on Friday, and that's when officials say he began firing.

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JAMES CERVERA: At this point in the investigation, we do not have that - any of the information that he was targeting anyone specifically.

BOOKER: That's Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera. He says the gunman's work status will now be a focal point of the investigation. City Manager Dave Hansen also told reporters that the gunman was not forced to resign, and he says co-workers did not express any concerns about Craddock prior to the shooting.

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DAVE HANSEN: He was in good standing within his department. There were no issues of discipline ongoing.

BOOKER: In addition to the 12 killed, four other victims are recovering from their injuries. And the city itself is still searching for ways to heal. Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Virginia Beach, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.