They had 150 years of combined service with Virginia Beach

(Southside Daily/Courtesy of the city of Virginia Beach)
(Southside Daily/Courtesy of the city of Virginia Beach)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Four were engineers who worked to maintain streets and protect wetlands. Three were right-of-way agents who reviewed property lines. The others included an account clerk, a technician, an administrative assistant and a special projects coordinator. In all, they had served the city of Virginia Beach for more than 150 years.

These 11 city employees and one contractor died Friday when a fellow city worker opened fire inside a municipal building. A day after the shooting, city officials sought to honor them by sharing their job titles and years of service in a somber slideshow.

“They leave a void that we will never be able to fill,” said City Manager Dave Hansen, who had worked for years with many of the dead.

Police Chief James Cervera identified the assailant as DeWayne Craddock, who had been employed for 15 years as an engineer with the city’s utilities department. He declined to comment on a motive for the rampage, which ended with the shooter’s death in a gun battle with officers. City officials uttered his name just once and said they would not mention it again.

Joseph Scott, an engineering technician with the utilities department, said he had worked with Craddock and had a brief interaction with him Friday, passing him in the men’s restroom about five minutes before the shooting.

“He was in there brushing his teeth, which he always did after he ate,” Scott said. “I said ‘Hey, how you doing? What are you doing this weekend?’ It was just a brief conversation.”

Scott said he left for the day right after and learned of the shooting when a co-worker and then his son called him asking if he was OK.

“I couldn’t believe that it happened,” he said.

One of the dead employees had worked for the city for 41 years. Six worked in the same department as the suspect, though authorities have declined to say if anyone was specifically targeted or if the suspect had issued threats before. The victims were found throughout the building, on three floors, police said.

The municipal building was open to the public, but security passes were required to enter inner offices, conference rooms and other work areas. As a current employee, Craddock would have had the pass to enter the inner offices, Hansen said.

In response to a reporter’s question, Cervera said the gunman had not been fired.

One of the dead, Christopher Kelly Rapp of Powhatan, enjoyed Scottish music and joined a pipe band last fall. He played with the group in October during a Celtic festival in Virginia and marched with bandmates on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Chris was reserved but very friendly, quietly engaging members one-on-one after our weekly practices,” the band, Tidewater Pipes & Drums, said in a statement.

Another victim, Mary Louise Gayle of Virginia Beach, was described as a “super sweet lady” who always had a big smile. “She would always be out there in the yard, working on something and talking to my daughters,” John Cushman, Gayle’s next-door neighbor, told The New York Times.

The other employees who were killed were identified as Tara Welch Gallagher, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Ryan Keith Cox, Joshua O. Hardy and Michelle “Missy” Langer, all of Virginia Beach; Laquita C. Brown and Robert “Bobby” Williams, both of Chesapeake; and Richard H. Nettleton of Norfolk. The 12th victim, Herbert “Bert” Snelling of Virginia Beach, was a contractor who was in the building to seek a permit.

The police and fire departments were to assign members of their honor guards to help each victim’s family.

Authorities have said the shooter fired indiscriminately. At least three other people who were wounded remained hospitalized Saturday.

Craddock appeared to have had no felony record, making him eligible to purchase guns.

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Government investigators identified two .45-caliber pistols used in the attack, said Ashan Benedict, the regional special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

All indications were that the shooter purchased the weapons legally, one in 2016 and one in 2018, Benedict said. The police chief said at least one had a noise suppressor.

City officials scheduled another news conference for Sunday morning.

Craddock, 40, graduated from Denbigh High School in nearby Newport News in 1996 and joined the Army National Guard, according to a newspaper clip from the time. He received basic military training and advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He later graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

Scott said he worked in a different division from Craddock, whom he described as quiet, polite and a “nice guy.” Scott said he thought Craddock was in good standing at work and had never heard negative reports about him.

A handwritten note was posted Saturday at the suspect’s home expressing condolences to the shooting victims on behalf of his family.

Hundreds of people attended Saturday prayer vigils for the dead. Scott said he, his wife and several others prayed for the shooter too.

“He was a human too, and his family is hurting too,” Scott said. “He’s not evil … he was just another guy who had problems.”

Neighbors described Craddock as a car enthusiast and bodybuilder.

Amanda Archer, 22, and Cassetty Howerin, 23, lived in a Virginia Beach townhome beneath Craddock for the past year and only got to know him in passing, exchanging the occasional greeting.

“He wasn’t much of a talker,” Archer recalled. “He’s a mystery to us. He’s a mystery to everybody, apparently.”

Associated Press writers Regina Garcia Cano, Michael Biesecker, Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C.; Michael Kunzelman in Virginia Beach; and Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.