Virginia Beach, VA – At least 12 people are dead and six more are wounded, including a police officer, after a disgruntled city employee opened fire inside the public works building at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Friday afternoon.
“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach. The people involved are our friends, coworkers, neighbors, colleagues,” Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer told reporters at the start of the press conference.
The incident began shortly after 4 p.m. on May 31 when a long-time, current employee of public utilities went into Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center and “immediately began to indiscriminately fire upon all the victims,” Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera said.
“Officers responded to Building 2 and secured the victims as much as possible and then engaged with the suspect,” Chief Cervera said.
He said police and the gunman exchanged gunfire, and during the barrage of bullets, a Virginia Beach police officer was shot.
The chief said the suspect was fatally shot during the confrontation with officers.
Chief Cervera said the police officer was saved by his vest.
Seventeen victims were found inside the city building and 11 had been pronounced dead prior to the press conference.
Chief Cervera said he had no information as to the conditions of any of the wounded.
He said the building was still an active scene and that Virginia Beach police were being assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Unit, the Department of Homeland Security Forensic Unit, and the Virginia State Police Forensic Unit.
“We are beginning the forensic process… the size of this incident, the intensity…,” Chief Cervera seemed to be at a loss for words. “It’s a huge scene. Understand the intensity of this scene.”
The chief said officers were in the process of trying to identify victims so their families could be notified. The medical examiner’s office was en route to the scene.
He did not release the name of the wounded officer, but said he had been transported to the hospital and was being treated. The chief said he would visit the officer later in the evening.
“There’s no way to describe an incident such as this… I think at this particular point I want to give the utmost respect and dignity to the victims and their families, because they are going to be forever changed,” he said.
The chief said he didn’t know on how many floors of the building the gunman’s victims were found, nor did he know how long the rampage had been going on before police arrived on the scene.
He said he was unable to release any information regarding possible motives for the massacre, but confirmed the gunman was currently employed by the city.
“Right now we have more questions than we have answers,” Chief Cervera admitted. “It was a devastating incident that happened that none of us want to be here talking about. A devastating incident that will change the lives of a lot of families in this city.”
The chief praised the police department and fire department’s response to the incident and credited their speed for saving lives.
“The fact that the suspect was immediately confronted, the fact that the suspect is deceased means our citizens can rest easy tonight,” he told reporters.
The chief said he didn’t know if all of the victims were employees of the city.
At least one victim was airlifted to the Level 1 trauma center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
Other victims were transported to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital and Sentara Princess Anne Hospital, according to WAVY.