Monday, June 17, 2024

Gunman’s motive for killing 12 people in the May 31 Virginia Beach Municipal Center massacre remains elusive

Families of victims who died in the May 31 mass shooting listen to Virginia Beach Deputy Police Chief give an update to the ongoing criminal investigation. (Southside Daily/Lucretia Cunningham)
Families of victims who died in the May 31 mass shooting listen to Virginia Beach Deputy Police Chief give an update to the ongoing criminal investigation. (WYDaily/Lucretia Cunningham)

VIRGINIA BEACH — By the time the 911 call came in on May 31, the shooter had already killed 10 victims on his rampage — the entire event up to the point the shooter is pronounced dead lasted 37 minutes and eight seconds.

Deputy Police Chief Patrick Gallager presented that information and much more in a briefing to City Council and in front of victims’ families, survivors, and the public Tuesday night in the council chambers.

“At approximately 4 p.m. the suspect shoots the first victim who is in his vehicle,” he said. “At 4:06 we receive the first 911 call.”

After submitting his resignation letter that morning, civil engineer DeWayne Craddock spent the hours prior to the massacre sending “generic” work-related emails and going on routine project site visits with co-workers, Gallagher told the City Council.

Gallagher did not mention Craddock’s name in his report. Craddock, 40, worked in the city’s public utilities department and used two semi-automatic handguns, a silencer and extended ammunition magazines to kill 11 of his co-workers and a contractor who had stopped at the complex to get a permit. Craddock was killed in a fierce gunbattle with police.

Gallagher outlined a full timeline of the shooter’s movements that day up to the point he’s killed in a 3-minute gun battle with police to which Gallagher revealed with a photo, occurred through a wooden door, “the suspect and the police officers did not see each other — they were firing through that door.”

The Virginia Beach Police Department show the door where the three-minute gun battle between the May 31 mass shooter and police occured. (Southside Daily/Courtesy the Virginia Beach Police Department)
The Virginia Beach Police Department show the door where the three-minute gun battle between the May 31 mass shooter and police occurred. (WYDaily/Courtesy the Virginia Beach Police Department)

Details about that day also revealed the shooter searched online for maps of Building 2 and other buildings in the Municipal Center immediately before sending his resignation email at 10:30 a.m.

He had access to an arsenal of five legally-bought weapons but not to the bullet-proof vest he ordered in April that wouldn’t be delivered before he attacked on May 31.

The review of the shooter’s background showed no social media accounts, manifestos, pre-attack indicators, behaviors, or even a pattern in the victims he chose.

“We are still looking to determine motive,” Gallagher said. “He shot people he knew and he shot people he did not know, and in fact, he elected not to shoot people he had an opportunity to shoot.”

The police’s findings were sent to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit to “identify what was going on in the mind of our suspect,” Gallagher said.

While Gallagher said coworkers described Craddock as a “quiet, polite, nice guy, and good listener,” a rumble came from the audience when Gallagher said his family described him as “introverted, paranoid, and uncomfortable around people.”

Kate Nixon’s husband, Jason, would hear police say what he said Kate told him before her tragic death — on the shooter’s last evaluation in 2018, he’d receive an “improvement required” and received written “reprimand” from his supervisor for performance issues.

In an August City Council meeting, Police Chief Jim Cervera said the criminal investigation was “close to being finished without the piece from the FBI.”

The FBI’s Evidence Response Team responded to assist police with a scene reconstruction that will be accomplished in about six to nine months at which point police will also have a draft of their final report, Gallagher said.

“I want to point out we are 116 days into this investigation, we have already dedicated thousands of investigative hours in pursuit of an investigation and we have thousands of investigative hours still remaining,” he said.

RELATED STORY: In wake of Virginia Beach mass shooting, localities on the Peninsula assess security

Independent probe update

Arnette Heintze, CEO of Hillard Heintze, also provided an update to the independent investigation making it a point to say the two reviews “follow parallel paths” but have no influence on each other.

Heintze went on to say after hearing from members of the public, community leaders, and city employees, they’ve decided to address concerns related to “a hostile work environment.”

“Our team felt that the volume and nature of the concerns raised might very well be impacting the overall workplace culture within city government,” he said. “The concerns raised about a hostile work environment were in fact a key area of our investigation’s focus.”

As a result, the review team has sent employee satisfaction surveys to all city employees through a third-party company and next will send out surveys to employees who work in Building 2.

After listing four factors that have impacted their ability to deliver the report in the initially estimated 12-weeks, Heintze said the team would have to extend the investigation timeline by three weeks with a report release date of Nov. 12.

“The overall level of outreach and engagement we’ve had with the public, a requirement from the police department for all of their reports be reviewed on-site in their department, the employee surveys we’re doing, and the volume of data and electronic communications we’re currently analyzing,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Virginia Beach mass shooting aftermath: Finding answers, sorting through the chaos

Days after the shooting, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a special legislative session would be held in July to consider universal background checks, a red flag law and other gun safety proposals. The Republican-controlled legislature quickly adjourned the session and referred the legislative proposals to the state crime commission for study.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( 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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