12 Dead in Virginia Beach’s ‘Most Devastating’ Mass Shooting
Emergency vehicles fill the parking lot at the Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach.
Emergency vehicles fill the parking lot at the Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach.(Photo: AP/Vicki Cronis-Nohe)

12 Dead in Virginia Beach’s ‘Most Devastating’ Mass Shooting

A gunman went on a shooting spree at a government building complex in Virginia Beach, Virginia, killing 12 people on Friday, 31 May, police said.

The gunman, a long-time public utilities employee, was also killed after trading fire with responding officers, police chief James Cervera told a news conference on Friday, 31 May.

The suspect was identified as DeWayne Craddock, a law enforcement official and a Virginia government source told CNN.

The shooting happened just after 4 pm (local time), when the gunman entered one of the buildings at the Virginia Beach municipal complex and "immediately began to indiscriminately fire on all of the victims," Cervera said.

There was an exchange of gunfire with officers after which he was shot dead. The wounded included a police officer, who was saved by his bulletproof vest.

The building where the shooting took place in Virginia Beach, a city on the east coast of the US about 200 miles (320 kilometews) southeast of Washington, housed the city's public works and utilities offices.

The building where the attack took place is in a suburban complex miles away from the high-rise hotels and the downtown business area. The shooting occurred while people were still visiting the municipal centre to conduct business. Initial reports said 11 people were killed in the shooting. Cervera later said one more died on the way to the hospital.

Megan Banton, an administrative assistant who works in the building called 911 as soon as she heard gunshots. She said she barricaded herself and about 20 colleagues inside an office, pushing a desk against a door.

“We tried to do everything we could to keep everybody safe. We were all just terrified. It felt like it wasn’t real, like we were in a dream. You are just terrified because all you can hear is the gunshots.”
Megan Banton, an administrative assistant in the building

The massacre is the deadliest in the US this year and adds the Virginia coastal city to a grim list of places affected by a mass shooting, CNN reported.

Witnesses said they couldn't believe this level of violence reached their community, their workplace.

Zand Bakhtiari, 28, who works on the first floor of the city building where the shooting happened, looked out of his window about 4 pm and saw people screaming and running.

"I thought they were running to the scene of a bad car accident," he told the New York Times, adding that at that time he had not heard any gunfire. But later he found out that there was an active shooter in the building.

He then heard 50 to 60 gunshots. "It was a lot of shots," Bakhtiari said. Five or 10 minutes later, a police SWAT team came and led them out.

“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach. The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbours, colleagues.”
Mayor Bobby Dyer, at a news conference

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam described the incident as a "tragic day" for the city and the state.

State Senator Tim Kaine tweeted that he was "devastated" by the news. Singer Pharrel Williams also offered his condolences saying, ‘We’ll come out of this stronger than before.”

Two law enforcement officials have said that the gunman legally bought multiple firearms recently and the guns recovered at the scene were purchased legally.

(This is a developing story. More details are awaited.)

(With inputs from AP, AFP, IANS, and CNN)

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