VIRGINIA BEACH — It was almost midnight May 31 when Jason Nixon found out his wife, Kate, had died where she worked in the Municipal Center’s Building 2.
Then, he’d waited more than 24 hours after the mass shooting to identify Kate’s body.
Kevin Martingayle, the Nixon family attorney, said Jason couldn’t see his wife, the family didn’t know where to find her, and they didn’t know when they would be able to have her body released to a funeral home “for a period of over 24 hours.”
He said the city’s delay to release what seems like selective information surrounding the killing of 12 people, 11 of whom were city employees, “is hard to understand.”
“Initially, it wasn’t told to the public the shooter had resigned that day and that his resignation was acknowledged by a city employee in a reply email,” Martingayle said. “That seems like material information, why was that left out?”
Also through reports, the public became aware police had difficulty gaining access through Building 2 because they didn’t have electronic key-cards.
“The information originally provided by the city was not complete and it was misleading,” Martingayle said.
That’s why, the attorney said, the Nixon family hired him to conduct an outside, independent investigation and report — while the city said. “it’s too soon,” he says, “there’s just no need to wait.”
“It absolutely justifies and requires launching an immediate and vigorous investigation into the entirety of this whole situation,” he said. “That would include looking at all available evidence preceding the shooting incident, everything occurring during the shooting incident, and everything that happened afterward.”
“These requests were made to the City Council and the City Council, as a body, will determine the ultimate course; however, these requests appear premature while the criminal investigation is ongoing and these requests can be discussed and considered after, and with the benefit of, the findings of that investigation,” said Julie Hill, the city’s spokeswoman.
Martingayle said his comprehensive investigation is different than the Virginia Beach Police Department-headed criminal investigation with the FBI, but are better coordinated when the two are conducted simultaneously and can share information.
“They’re focused on a crime scene and the criminal events,” he said. “They will not be focused on, nor will they issue a report about all of the things we are talking about.”
He said Nixon had discussed with her husband about taking her pistol to work the night before the shooting, but decided against it because of the city building’s gun-free policy.
He added although Nixon did have concerns about the man who would turn out to be the shooter on May 31, she considered carrying her gun to work out of fear of another employee who was recently fired and “made some kind of comment.”
The identity of that former city employee remains a mystery.
The shooter, DeWayne Craddock, was a nine-year engineer with the public utilities department.
“This was a pretty unusual thing for Kate Nixon to have those kinds of concerns that were serious enough in her own mind that she talked about whether or not she would take a gun to work,” he said.
Martingayle said he and his team will formally interview all employees who potentially have relevant information and “look into the larger issue of whether there was some sort of workplace culture in that department, and perhaps other Virginia Beach City departments, where people are afraid.”
“Fear of scrutiny and criticism of performances of some top city officials” may be why the city is resistant to an independent investigation, Martingayle said.
Martingayle noted a concurrent investigation outside of the police investigation is “nothing new” and “should be automatic” using the response to 2017’s deadly riot in Charlottesville as an example.
“Here we have something that is much worse in terms of the death toll with 12 innocent people killed on city property where there is supposedly some level of security,” he said. “There’s a whole lot to consider here and if we do anything less than or inferior to what they did in Charlottesville then shame on our local government.”
Nevertheless, he said his team will continue to pursue a full investigation with the goal of producing an “after action report.”
“If we can’t get the city officials moving in the right direction, we will start talking directly with the Attorney General’s Office and we’ll ask the Attorney General’s Office to launch an investigation whether the city likes it or not,” Martingayle said.
Martingayle said one of the goals of the report is to improve the city’s response to emergency situations.
“If we in Virginia Beach can’t handle something like this in terms of getting information out when all the individuals were in one location and all their identities were known to city officials, then how are we going to handle it when we have a large natural disaster with a lot more casualties and victims?” he said.
While the Nixon family knows nothing will bring Kate back, Martingayle said the family’s goal is to learn from this event to make a safer community.
“There’s got to be something to come out of this that helps other people, and that’s his (Jason’s) goal,” he said.
Martingayle said Jason Nixon is “not just going to sit back and let people say ‘thoughts and prayers. Let’s move on.’ There is a period of time for mourning, that’s totally appropriate, but a period of time for mourning doesn’t stop city officials from doing their jobs and getting an investigation going.”