Shooter kills 12 people at city’s Municipal Center; mayor calls it ‘the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach’

VIRGINIA BEACH – Mayor Bobby Dyer described the horrific mass shooting at the city’s Municipal Center Friday as “the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach.”

“The people involved are our friends, co-workers and neighbors, colleagues,” Dyer said, holding back tears as he spoke to reporters during a news conference.

“This is Virginia Beach’s darkest hour,” the mayor said.

A longtime and current city employee opened fire at a municipal building Friday afternoon, killing 12 people before police shot and killed him.

Police initially said the gunman shot and killed 11 people. Police Chief Jim Cervera later said one more died on the way to the hospital.

Cervera said there are four victims in area hospital being treated. Their conditions are not immediately known.

A Virginia Beach Police officer was shot — he was “saved by his vest,” Cervera said. He was one of the four officers in a “long” gun battle with the suspect.

The suspect was carrying a .45 caliber handgun with a “suppressor,” Cervera said, adding police also found “multiple” empty extended magazines.

Investigators still are in the process of determining whether the gun was legally obtained by the suspect.

Police have not released the identity of the gunman.

“We will say his name once and never again,” Cervera said, adding when he does release the name, it will be only once. He said after that, “he will be forever referred to as the suspect because our focus now is the dignity and respect to the victims in this case and to their families.”

Police said they found one victim in a vehicle, and victims on all three floors of the building.

Cervera said police are working to identify the victims “so that we can make personal notification to family members.

“We do know that shortly after 4 p.m. this afternoon the suspect entered building 2, he’s a long time employee of Public Utilities,” Cervera said, adding the gunman “indiscriminately fired upon all the victims.”

Police entered the building and got out as many employees as they could, then exchanged fire with the suspect, who was killed, the chief said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. It’s still an active scene. Due to the size and scope and intensity of this scene, we’re being assisted by FBI Forensics Unit, DHS Forensics Unit, and the Virginia State Police Forensics Unit,” Cervera said. “Right now we have a lot of questions, “the whys,” they will come later. Right now we have more questions really than we have answers.”

The shooting happened in building No. 2 of the municipal center which houses the city’s public works, public utilities and planning departments, said City Councilwoman Barbara Henley, who arrived at City Hall building about 4 p.m. Friday when she saw a crowd of people standing outside.

Cervera said the city offices now resemble a “war zone.”

Virginia Beach Press Conference, Municipal Center shooting – May 31, 2019

"This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach. The people involved are our friends, coworkers, neighbors and colleagues." – Mayor Robert M. "Bobby" Dyer.VBPD Police Chief James Cervera provided an update on today's tragic shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, where 11 victims were killed, along with six others injured, including a Virginia Beach police officer.We at the City of Virginia Beach are heartbroken for the lives lost, and those who were hurt during this unspeakable act. Your City remains strong, and resolved as ever to continue proudly serving our great community. Thank you for the outpouring of love and support today, and in the days to follow.

Posted by Virginia Beach City Government on Friday, May 31, 2019

Sheila Cook, a city employee, was in building 10 when she said she heard “muffled gunshot sounds” coming from the outside.

“I’m just going through a lot of emotions because there’s way too much killing going on and I’m just glad they alerted us in enough time so we wouldn’t be outside when everything was occurring, but I’m still shaking because there’s entirely too much killing going on,” Cook said. “We heard shooting but we didn’t think it was that close in proximity to the building.I just thank God they were able to alert us in time. If it had been 10 minutes more we all would’ve been outside.”

Gov. Ralph Northam arrived later in Virginia Beach to be briefed of the situation.

“This is a horrific day for the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are devastated by the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach,” Northam said. I am in Virginia Beach with law enforcement authorities and Mayor (Bobby) Dyer, where I am monitoring the situation and offer the state’s full support.

My deepest condolences and prayers go to the families of those who left home this morning, and will not return tonight, as well as those who have been injured in this tragedy.

This is unspeakable, senseless violence. I commend local and state law enforcement, first responders, medical teams, and all others who acted swiftly to respond to this situation. My thoughts continue to be with the victims and their families.”

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