Wednesday, November 29, 2023

VB top cop will not release PD’s probe into the mass shooting until the independent review is done. And the auditor said this

Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera talks to press about details surrounding an active shooter at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Friday May 31, 2019. (Southside Daily/Lucretia Cunningham)
Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera talks to press about details surrounding an active shooter at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Friday, May 31, 2019. (Southside Daily/Lucretia Cunningham)

VIRGINIA BEACH — With more than 280 interviews conducted and the investigation into the officer-involved shooting that killed the gunman on May 31 complete, the criminal investigation into the mass shooting is “close to being finished without the piece from the FBI,” police Chief Jim Cervera told City Council Tuesday.

“It’s going to take [the FBI] a while to finish their part of the investigation which is evidence collection — it’ll take them a little while to finish that,” he said.

Cervera responded to Mayor Bobby Dyer’s request for an investigation update after briefing the police department’s mid-year update in City Council’s informal meeting.

Cervera said even if the criminal investigation was completed, the results wouldn’t be released to the public until Hillard Heintze’s independent review is complete.

Police spokeswoman Linda Kuehn said one reason why police investigators are withholding results is to avoid interfering with the independent review.

“We want them to be able to do their investigation without outside influence,” she said.

City Auditor Lyndon Remias is a liaison for the independent review team and said the contracted firm is in no position to make such a request, and without any relation to the release of the criminal investigation’s results, the firm will “form their own opinions, validate their own sets, and come to their own conclusions” as planned.

“Police didn’t start the criminal investigation with the team here so their timeline shouldn’t be contingent on the independent review,” he said. “They should treat the conclusion of their investigation in the same manner based on their own timeline.”

Hillard Heintze, the Chicago-based firm contracted to review the May 31 mass shooting, is hosting the community for their second and final listening session Thursday before starting the “Incident Review, Investigation, and Security Assessment” phase of their probe.

The team has previously said they’ve already begun conducting interviews and started reviewing documents, but the next eight weeks will specifically focus on those aspects with the goal of producing a report by week-12.

Remias said “emails, personnel files, and police data” are included in the information for review and “they’ll also continue to conduct interviews with employees.”

In their initial ‘kickoff’ meeting, Arnette Heintze, the founder and CEO of Hillard Heintze, has also said the team wants to be cautious with the information they release as the investigation progresses but does plan “to hold periodic briefings every three to four weeks for insight and progress our team is making.” 

Remias noted the public can continue to provide information to the review team by phone or email — 877-208‐5650,

According to their submitted proposal, Phase two of Hillard Heintze’s independent review will also include:

  • Review of security camera footage.
  • A critical assessment of the response to the shooting.
  • A comprehensive investigation into the background, supervisory, HR, co-worker interactions, and internal employment history of the shooter.
  • Assessing the level of supervisory and leadership training and how supervisory performance is measured.
  • A systemic assessment of the Municipal Center’s physical and technical security posture.
  • Creating a detailed timeline of the events leading up to the shooting.

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