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 Virginia Beach Needs To Come Clean

Virginia Beach Needs To Come Clean

Could a CYA operation be underway in Virginia Beach?

Actually, it looked like that within hours of the massacre at the municipal center, when city officials insisted that shooter DeWayne Craddock - and yes, I’m using his name because I don’t believe in censoring the news - was an unremarkable employee in good standing.

Most of the local media dutifully reported what was being fed to them by city officials. National media outlets, however, went beyond that.

The New York Times and The New York Post reported that the shooter had been involved in “scuffles” with fellow employees and even a “violent altercation.” There were reports that Craddock was about to face some sort of disciplinary action.

Confirmation from the city that Craddock had resigned his position came later.

I was out of town last weekend, but in a long-distance telephone interview with attorney Kevin Martingayle - a family friend of Katherine Nixon, one of the shooting victims - I learned that she’d told her husband she was concerned about Craddock and another city employee who’d been fired and escorted from the building shortly before the massacre.

Katherine Nixon even considered bringing a handgun to work on the day she was shot to death - because the worker who’d just been sacked had “made some kind of threatening remark, like ‘I’m coming back,’ as he was escorted from the premises,” Martingayle told me.

She didn’t bring a weapon because “it was against policy.”

“The sick irony is that she was mostly focused on the guy who’d been fired,” Martingayle said.

Her discomfort with Craddock, on the other hand, went back “as much as one and a half years.”

Martingayle says Nixon’s husband believes his wife - who worked in a different department from the gunman - may have “written him up” for something. The lawyer said that Katherine Nixon believed Craddock wasn’t a good engineer and that he “had a bad attitude.”

Katherine Nixon was “highly competent with a handgun” Martingayle added, although there is no way to know if she would have been able to protect herself or others if she’d been armed that afternoon.

Despite an affable mayor who’s pledged transparency in business deals, the information flow about the killing spree is being controlled by the city manager and his staff who have no history of transparency.

Anyone else remember the sad case of Michael Knockett? He was the 52-year-old homeless man who was crushed to death by a city garbage truck on the beach on the morning of June 28, 2010.  After the incident, the party line was that Knockett was hidden in some sort of “blind spot” on the beach or a depression in the sand and couldn’t be seen by the driver. That fabrication stood until a beachgoer came forward with a photo of Knockett upright and easily visible in a white hat, bright blue blanket and sitting in a beach chair moments before his death.

Had that photograph not surfaced, the city’s disinformation would have stood and the family of the dead man would not have collected the $500,000 settlement they eventually took from the city. 

If the Knockett case taught us anything, it’s to ask questions. A lot of them. And to be suspicious of easy answers that make the city look good.

Martingayle, on behalf of Katherine Nixon’s family, is asking the city to immediately initiate an outside investigation into the massacre and the events leading up to it. This would be separate from the criminal investigation.

“The FBI isn’t going to look at what the city could have done to prevent the shootings or what it can do to prevent tragedies in the future,” the lawyer said. “That’s not their role.”

Martingayle is right to lean on these reticent officials to come clean now. We should add our voices to his. Craddock has no privacy rights. He’s dead. He took 12 innocent people with him.

Release Craddock’s personnel file. Today. An investigator - with no ties to city government - should tell us if there were concerns about his behavior or mental health. 

Oh, and the city should remove the redactions from that weird resignation letter sent by the shooter.

If history is any predictor, city officials will shield as much information as possible, especially anything that casts authorities in a bad light. They’ll use the criminal investigation, which could last months, as an excuse.

News flash: A probe into security and safety at the municipal center can run concurrent with a criminal investigation into the massacre.

The people of Virginia Beach have been through a trauma. Many want to know how this happened.

If officials knew - or should have known - that Craddock was a violent man or suffering from mental illness and did nothing, or if they knew security in Building Two was lacking and did nothing to fix it, tell us now.  If the city had no culpability, if there was nothing that could have been done to make the workplace safer, that would be good to know, too.

Don’t force the public to wait for a website or The New York Times to uncover the truth.

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