Thursday, September 28, 2023

Nixon family attorney: ‘Authorize the investigation everyone knows is necessary’

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

VIRGINIA BEACH —  Vice Mayor James Wood proposed a resolution during a City Council workshop Tuesday, calling for an independent review of the May 31 mass shooting in Building 2 of the Municipal Center.

He said he researched other past mass shootings.

“The interesting thing is the timeframes on those,” he said. “Virginia Tech was four months, Charlottesville was six months, San Bernardino eight months, Sandy Hook was about two years, and Las Vegas was about a year.”

In the resolution, Wood outlined an independent investigation would only begin after receiving written confirmation from law enforcement stating the third-party probe would not hinder the criminal investigation.

RELATED STORY: Pressure mounting: City Council gears toward possible independent probe on the May 31 mass shooting

Wood also said the independent investigation would focus on topics “that probably won’t show up on a police report.”

“The elements are more taking a look at employment history, workplace interactions, review of city policies, procedures, and practices, facility security, prevention of workplace violence, employee alerting, that sort of thing,” he said.

Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten presented an alternative resolution and said after learning from the city’s most recent status update “there is no timeframe for completing” the criminal investigation, she thought about the victims’ families “and how they’ve continued to wait.”

“My heart breaks for the families and listening to some of the stories about how they weren’t able to locate their loved one’s body,” she said.

Wooten’s resolution would initiate the process to get a third-party investigating firm immediately — with, or without law enforcement consent.

“When I say expeditiously looking at an investigation, I mean doing everything that’s necessary to move forward without reservation whether you get the written assurance, or not,” she said.

Recent calls for city lawmakers to open an independent investigation into the May 31 mass shooting inside a Municipal Center building have been mounting with the latest coming from State Dels. Cheryl Turpin D-85, and Kelly Fowler D- 21.

Turpin and Fowler sent a letter to all council members Monday asking them to take the lead.

“There is yet another report that family members of victims are not receiving adequate information about the city lead investigation, and as elected officials we have not received a briefing since the week of the shooting,” the letter said.

Debbie Borato’s said she’s been emailing city officials regularly “basically pleading” for information surrounding the tragic death of her sister, Michelle ‘Missy’ Langer, who was killed by the shooter that day.

“I thanked Turpin and Fowler for bringing the investigation to city council’s attention,” she said Wednesday.

Borato also said she hopes the council votes to start the investigation sooner than later, “if they can do it now, than why not?”

RELATED STORY: Her sister died in the May 31 mass shooting. She questions the lack of info — city officials are ‘not giving us the time of day’

Kevin Martingayle is the attorney representing Katherine Nixon’s family and was the first to go public with requests for the council to release the shooter, DeWayne Craddock’s, employment records and to immediately open a third-party investigation.

Martingayle said Wood’s stipulation for starting a third-party probe without law enforcement consent is “absolutely ridiculous,” and “the behavior just increases public suspicion.”

“They need to stop playing games and authorize the independent investigation everyone knows is necessary,” he said.

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

Martingayle referenced attorney Tim Heaphy’s 219-page report produced after there was an independent investigation at the same time as the criminal investigation into the 2017 deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

“The report makes recommendations for the future and goes beyond the scope of law enforcement,” he said.

In their letter, Turpin and Fowler also recommended city officials look to Heaphy for leadership in the situation.

Wood said in Tuesday’s workshop he hopes the council will support his resolution in time to present it to the community “as a group” during their formal meeting on July 2.

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