May 31 mass shooting independent review: Meet the team

Team members from Hillard Heintze are conducting the independent review into the May 31 shooting tragedy. (Southside Daily/Lucretia Cunningham)
Team members from Hillard Heintze are conducting the independent review into the May 31 shooting. (Southside Daily/Lucretia Cunningham)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Nearly two months after tragedy struck at the Municipal Center, members of a Chicago-based Hillard Heintze review team has arrived to start helping the community “understand, learn, prepare and prevent” after May 31.

The team — forensic psychologist Mark Brenzinger, former Secret Service agent Matthew Doherty, chief legal officer Debra Kirby, former Illinois State Police Kenneth Bouche, and CEO Arnette Heintze — all stood alongside City Auditor Lyndon Remias during a community meeting Tuesday to introduce themselves to the city and hear questions and concerns from the public.

RELATED STORY: Hillard Heintze’s investigation team includes a mental health expert, ex-Secret Service agents

According to the firm’s submitted proposal, the meeting is part of the “listening and learning on-site” phase to be accomplished in the first two weeks of their 12-week plan.

Setting up an email address and toll-free office phone where the public can contribute information are also elements of the first phase — 877-208‐5650, VirginiaBeach@HillardHeintze.com.

Heintze said the 12-week timeline is “ambitious” but the team is committed to getting answers for the community with the goal to learn from this incident.

The second phase is dedicated to working the investigation, and is scheduled over 8 weeks.

Heintze said although the “kick-off meeting” convened on Tuesday, the team has already been in touch with victims’ family members and tragedy survivors over the weekend.

The team has also met with community leaders who Heintze said had “transparency and public trust” at the forefront of their concerns.

“We’ve heard time and again from every leader, the importance of transparency and trust and the investigation is truly in an independent fashion,” he said.

The team will establish an office and “presence” at the Municipal Center where they’ll conduct any interviews, meetings, or listening sessions.

Attendees Tuesday questioned who will see the final report, local investigator involvement, and how the review will affect supervisors in city offices and how they are trained to manage people.

Remias stepped in to say the final report will be published to the website like “all other auditor reports.”

Some public concerns involved the company’s parent company, Jensen Hughes, having an office in Virginia Beach — Heintze said although Jensen Hughes is their parent company, he is the owner and operator of Hillard Heintze and the review would be shaded if local parties were involved.

“Jensen Hughes acquired our firm as a strategic addition because their clients around the globe are asking for what we do and to bring our services to their clients with a broader capability,” he said.

During the review, the team hopes to provide updates every three-to-four weeks not to reveal facts they’ve found but for insight and progress the probe is making, Heintze said.

The team also announced community listening sessions to get the public’s point of view and insight:

Listening Session 1 – Virginia Beach Community 

  • Date and Time: July 29 at 7 p.m.
  • Address: Virginia Beach Convention Center 1000 19th St.

Listening Session 2 – Virginia Beach Community

  • Date and Time: Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.
  • Address: Location to be determined.

There’ll be separate listening sessions for city employees.

Remias ended the meeting when he said the review is “the first step towards getting answers and the first step towards healing for our community.”

The investigation is costing the city more than $460,000 including meals and travel for the comprehensive team including:

  • 4 former secret service agents
    • Will review security policies, practices, and procedures
    • They’ll also do a physical security assessment of the Municipal Center.
  • 2 former law enforcement officers — a former police chief and deputy police chief
    • Will review all issues relating to police response and obstacle faced
  • 2 attorneys, the firm’s general counsel and a Supreme Court of Virginia certified mediator who specializes in human resource issues.
  • 2 certified fraud examiners who are skilled in forensic auditing
    • Will perform a thorough data footprint of the shooter to include social media and “any data needing to be reviewed,” Remias said.
  • 1 mental health expert who is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist
    • Will conduct a retrospective indirect threat assessment and risk evaluation of the shooter.
      • Remias has previously said including a mental health expert on the team was a major selling point.

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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.