State lawmakers call for Virginia Beach to open independent review of May 31 mass shooting

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

VIRGINIA BEACH —  The city may soon commission an independent investigation into the mass shooting that claimed 12 lives last month, but the findings might not come out quickly enough for some victims’ families and state lawmakers.

Vice Mayor James Wood told The Associated Press Tuesday that a proposed resolution calling for an independent review is in the works. He said he hopes the council votes for it on July 2.

The investigation would be conducted by an independent entity such as a law firm and would be similar to those that followed the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech and the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Wood said.

The proposed measure says the work would begin once police confirm that it won’t affect their own investigation, Wood said.

“I understand that there is a desire by the victims’ families to get information out,” Wood said. “But it has to be comprehensive information. I don’t believe a thorough, independent review would release things immediately.”

Police and city officials have not released details on any possible motive for the May 31 shooting. They say they have no time frame for when the police investigation will be completed.

Longtime city employee DeWayne Craddock submitted his resignation notice the same day he opened fire in the municipal building where he worked.

Calls have been mounting for the immediate release of more details. Concerns have been raised about Craddock’s behavior before the shooting as well as the police response to the massacre.

The latest call for information came from two state lawmakers who represent parts of Virginia Beach. Cheryl Turpin and Kelly Convirs-Fowler released a statement Monday that said elected officials have not received a briefing since the week of the shooting.

Turpin and Convirs-Fowler are both Democrats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Convirs-Fowler said they need as much information as possible before a special legislative session on July 9 that Gov. Ralph Northam convened in the tragedy’s wake.

Northam, a Democrat, said he wants the Republican-led General Assembly to consider several gun control measures, including bans on silencers and high-capacity magazines that are similar to the ones Craddock used. Republicans have given little indication that they plan to follow Northam’s agenda.

“The General Assembly must know every detail of the events leading up to the 31st, as these details may help save lives,” Convirs-Fowler said in a statement. “We urge transparency and decisiveness from our fellow leaders without delay.”

In their letter to council members, Turpin and Convirs-Fowler also cited an published report that police lacked keycard access to parts of the building as they tried to get to the shooter.

“We have also heard of other communication failures and delays that took place in the aftermath of the shooting events,” the letter said. “There is yet another report that family members of victims are not receiving adequate information about the city lead investigation.”

The attorney for the family of one woman who was killed, Kate Nixon, said she had written Craddock up at work and thought he had a poor attitude. Attorney Kevin Martingayle also said the city should release Craddock’s full employment record.

Wood said an independent review should ultimately satisfy victims’ families and lawmakers desire for information.

Councilman Michael Berlucchi said in an email: “It is important for all of us to know what happened and to have complete confidence in the investigation’s conclusions so that we can grieve and heal. I also respect the work being conducted by law enforcement professionals and believe it is important to maintain the integrity of their efforts.”

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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.