Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Virginia Beach vice mayor: Call for independent probe on the May 31 mass shooting ‘makes no sense’

(Southside Daily/ Courtesy of Virginia Beach Police Department)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Jason Nixon hired attorney Kevin Martingayle to conduct an outside, independent investigation of events surrounding the May 31 mass shooting when his wife, Kate, and 11 others were killed in the city’s Municipal Center.

While the Virginia Beach Police Department heads the ongoing criminal investigation, city officials are saying “these requests appear premature.”

RELATED STORY: Kate Nixon is one of the city employees who died May 31: Her family is not settling for the city’s answers

Vice Mayor James Wood said he’s not opposed to the independent study, but agreed “until we know [criminal investigators] are done, and they’ve got all the information, we can’t do anything to jeopardize their investigation.”

He added, “That would just be reckless.”

Martingayle requested City Council to approve his investigation, which would be conducted concurrently with the criminal investigation to better coordinate and share information with law enforcement, and then produce an “after action report.”

He said his team’s investigation would focus on events leading up to, during, and after the shooting to include the city’s response and “the larger issue of whether there was some sort of workplace culture in that department, and perhaps other Virginia Beach City departments, where people are afraid.”

Something the current investigation will not provide.

Virginia Beach residents visit a memorial outside of Building 11 dedicated to the 12 victims lost in the Municipal Center shooting. (WYDaily/Lucretia Cunningham)
Virginia Beach residents visit a memorial outside of Building 11 dedicated to the 12 victims lost in the Municipal Center shooting. (WYDaily/Lucretia Cunningham)

“They’re focused on a crime scene and the criminal events,” Martingayle said. “They will not be focused on, nor will they issue a report about all of the things we are talking about.”

Wood objected to the notion Martingayle knows what will come out of the criminal investigation and said the attorney’s comments are “without any basis.”

“It’s pretty basic what they’re trying to determine now,” Wood said.

Local, state and federal investigators are “trying to determine everything,” and conducting a simultaneous study “makes no sense,” Wood said.

“It might not be the same level of detail that people want and that’s why we might have to have a separate report,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of information out there, emails, files, records, and reports that a third party is not going to have access to while the building is sealed up.”

Wood rejected Martingayle’s claim the city is withholding “material information” from the public saying, “I can’t imagine the pain the families are going through and I understand they want answers–everybody wants answers.”

“We need to get the information out to everyone and it needs to be accurate information,” he said. “But we need to get it out in a way that it does not hamper the investigation.”

Martingayle did not immediately return voicemails seeking comment.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.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.

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