Virginia Beach City Council includes mental health in their gun violence discussion

(Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pexels)
(Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pexels)

VIRGINIA BEACH — After the tragic event on May 31, the community has been looking to city leaders for answers and action.

On June 18, the formal City Council meeting went on for almost three hours while residents and council members made their plea for, or against a resolution concerning employees carrying firearms inside government buildings.

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“However, we can’t address the topic of violence as it relates to firearms without including a discussion about mental health,” Councilman Michael Berlucchi said Tuesday. “There’s often a connection between acts of mass public violence and untreated serious mental illness.”

Berlucchi wrote in a Facebook post, he and Councilwoman Jessica Abbott are planning to submit a resolution for review during the next formal meeting asking the General Assembly to provide more funding for mental health treatment.

Abbot added the resolution is necessary before Gov. Ralph Northam’s special session on July 9 as “mental health seems like it’s always the thing that gets cut both at the state and local levels.”

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On May 31, nine-year city employee DeWayne Craddock sent a resignation email to his supervisor before he shot and killed 12 people and wounded four more inside the building where he worked in the Municipal Center.

The public has questioned whether Craddock showed signs before the attack, but city officials have rebutted those suspicions saying in recent statements, he was a “satisfactory” worker.

Berlucchi referenced a study conducted by the FBI to support the timing of his resolution and how the need for mental health funding is relevant to the discussion around gun-violence.

“Forty percent of the active shooters in these events had received a psychiatric diagnosis, 70-percent showed mental health concerning behaviors prior to the attack, and 86-percent had suicidal ideations or made suicide attempts prior to the attack,” he said.

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The resolution is on the City Council’s formal meeting agenda for July 2 with one other directing the City Auditor contract an independent firm to open an investigation into the events surrounding the May 31 shooting.

City Council members will meet for their informal session starting at 2 p.m. and then go into their formal session at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Building.

The meetings can be viewed live here.

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Lucretia Cunningham is a multimedia journalist at Southside Daily covering hyper-local stories in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Her stories focus on public safety, tourism, and city government. She is a Virginia transplant and military spouse originally from Chicago. Lucretia also served on active duty from 2006 to 2016 and started her journalism career as a broadcaster in the Virginia Air National Guard. When she’s not covering stories on the Southside, she’s covering stories with her Air National Guard unit.