VB city auditor: City gained insight for improvements, but still no ‘why’ in mass shooting

10 On Your Side

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A newly-released report covers 262 pages and reviews Virginia Beach’s worst day.

After four months, the report was finished and handed over to Virginia Beach City Council Wednesday night.

The report had several key findings, some of which pointed out things the city can change with its security, Human Resources support and notification system. Investigators also said some rumors about the shooter were unsubstantiated, while others about his work performance were correct.

Overall, however, the report does not pinpoint a causal factor — the “why” or motive — behind the shooting that left 12 dead.

Here’s what happens next: Top-level management will come up with a comprehensive management response. Corrective plans that can be done now will be done now, but security corrections could take months.

10 On Your Side has also confirmed delegates Kelly Fowler and Jason Miyares will submit a bill in the General Assembly calling for a state independent commission to investigate the May 31 tragedy.

Key findings

Mass notification was lacking that day, as it took 22 minutes after the shooting started May 31 to text employees with a warning to shelter in place. The city’s main communications center is not clearly established.

First responders also didn’t have access to critical areas of Building 2 when pursuing the shooter because they didn’t have swipe cards.

The report suggests some culture changes, two of which jumped out to Virginia Beach City Auditor Lyndon Remias.

“We need to enhance policies related to how we alert employees and how employees and citizens access our buildings,” the city auditor said.

10 On Your Side saw that improving security is already underway in the City Attorney’s Office. They are now retrofitting the receptionist desk behind bulletproof glass.

The second culture Remias brings up: Human Resources.

“Do I think the city needs to do a better job to make the work place more comfortable for people across the board? Absolutely… we do not want to be dismissive of those pockets of toxicity,” Remias told 10 On Your Side.

“I feel [employees] have various venues and avenues to report their issues and problems, but we don’t what them to think the road leads to a dead end right there.”

The investigation showed the shooter did not display warning signs. Remias added “the threats weren’t there.” Hillard Heintze investigators in their report confirmed that workplace warning signs did not warn of what was to come May 31.

“The emails weren’t there. The prior violence wasn’t there. Social media postings were not there,” he said.

Two months before the mass shooting, the shooter started showing signs of paranoia.

“He would start writing drafts on internet searches and keep them … he never sent them, but he was documenting his thoughts… He searched mass shootings around the country,” Remias added. The investigation found he didn’t think he was being treated well in relation to his peers.

“We cannot tie that into his actions of that day, but it is interesting to see he was thinking these things,” Remias added.

The study shows Virginia Beach needs to pay attention to the small pockets of toxic environment.

We interviewed “Jane” Monday who complained of a toxic work environment.

“I saw bullying, disrespect, antagonizing, using your title to belittle,” Jane told 10 On Your Side. The report says Virginia Beach needs to pay attention to even small pockets of toxic work environments.

Moving forward

When asked about any further investigations, Remias said the city does not need another investigation. Remias said two investigations (the Virginia Beach Police preliminary report and the Independent Investigation by Hillard Heintze) have produced nothing substantive to definite motive for what happened May 31.

The FBI criminal investigation and the final police investigation have not been completed.

“They will not be able to tell us the ‘why.’ They could tell us the additional areas where we could improve safer better places to work,” added Remias, “but they are not going to get to the ‘why.'”

An attorney for one of the victim’s family says he’s not so sure about what Remias says. He pointed to Page 36 of the Hillard Heintze report, which states: “Data held by the FBI not shared and may have relevance to our analysis.”

“A great deal of the evidence is in the possession of the FBI, and has not been made available for review and therefore is not part of the report,” attorney Kevin Martingayle said. “You have a partial investigation which means you have a partial report.”

Correction: In the on-air story and in an earlier version of this story it incorrectly stated that Hillard Heintze says it would have arrived at the same conclusions with the materials from the F.B.I. investigation. This is not correct and WAVY-TV regrets the error.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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