Virginia Beach Shooting and Transparency
Eight of the 16 people gunned down in the Virginia Beach mass shooting were on the third floor of Building 2. Here’s what City Hall isn’t telling the public about that particular floor:
After a 10-day news blackout following the Municipal Center mass shooting, Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen went public last week, insisting that the city had a “demonstrated commitment to transparency” about the May 31 tragedy.
From the earliest hours after the massacre, city officials claimed that Building 2 had inner-office security, that shooter DeWayne Craddock was a Public Utilities worker in good standing and that Craddock’s employee badge gave him access to parts of the building blocked from the public.
That made sense. So did the implication that there was no way to stop a murderous employee from a building-wide rampage as long as he could swipe his employee ID to get through barriers designed to repel outsiders.
The day after the shooting ABC News reported this:
Hansen said that while there are no metal detectors, desks are stationed nearby for administrative assistants to work with the public.
"But all accesses to the inner offices and conference rooms are secured and require this [security] pass," he said, pointing to his own pass. "And, as I've told you, he [the gunman] was in possession of a pass."
Survivors of the horror say the city manager left several things out that day. And those omissions angered some employees in the Public Works department on the third floor of Building 2.
You see, some workers fretted for years that they were sitting ducks. Unlike the lower two floors, the inner offices on the top floor were not secured, they say.
Oh, and employee badges are very specific. Workers were not supposed to have access to the entire building. Passes are coded to allow employees only into areas where they belong. The shooter, for instance, worked in Public Utilities on the second floor. His pass would have given him access to that floor. But it would likely not let him into the secure areas on the first floor.
If the third floor had been fitted with secure doors, he would have at least been delayed on his deadly mission on that level as well.
But the third floor, witnesses say, was wide open.
“We used to joke that it would take a member of the public shooting up the place to get them to put card swipers on our floor,” I was told by a survivor.
One person was shot in the public area of the third floor, survivors told me, but seven others were shot in the inner office area. Five of those workers died.
Attempts to reach Hansen on Monday by phone and email to ask about the security situation on the third floor were unsuccessful.
I asked third-floor employees why they even had badges if there were no restricted doors on their floor. I was told that their passes allowed them to enter Building 2 after hours, and gave them access to the tunnel between City Hall and Building 2.
Oh, and the badges were needed for one other thing: To use the copier.
Yep, worried about waste, the city installed a card swiper on the multi-function printer. But not on the doors.
“For a lack of six card swipers, five people died,” a survivor told me, bitterly.
That’s speculation. A determined gunman could presumably shoot through secure doors. But on that awful last day of May there was nothing to slow him down, they told me.
In the chaotic aftermath of a mass shooting, it’s understandable that some misinformation could be disseminated. But there’s been plenty of time to set the record straight. No one has.
On Monday, The Virginian-Pilot reported that at least two new members of Virginia Beach City Council - Sabrina Wooten and Guy Tower - were clamoring to support gun control laws that would make public buildings gun-free zones. As if that would have saved a single life in Virginia Beach. It was already a violation of city policy for the shooter to enter his workplace armed.
No doubt other council members will want to get their names in the newspaper - and a pat on the head by editorial writers - by joining them.
Instead of worrying about what’s going on in Richmond, local politicians should focus on actual ways to make city offices safer.
Securing entrances to all non-public areas in city buildings would be a start.