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Independent mass shooting probe examining hostile work environment allegations

Virginia Beach Mass Shooting

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Chicago-based firm hired to conduct an independent investigation into the Virginia Beach mass shooting is looking into allegations of a hostile work environment within the city’s government.

Arnette Heintze, founder and CEO of Hillard Heintze, emphasized to city council at a Tuesday night meeting that the investigations by the firm and the Virginia Beach Police Department are separate.

The firm was tasked by city council to investigate various factors and circumstances of the May 31 shooting, which claimed the lives of 12 people and injured four others. These include:

  • Creating a timeline of facts relevant to the shooting.
  • Reviewing the shooter’s employment history and workplace interactions.
  • Reviewing relevant City policies, procedures, and practices to include those related to facility security, prevention of workplace violence, and employee alerting and response to active shooter notifications.

Heintze revealed Tuesday night the firm will now be taking a closer look to see if the work environment could have been an underlying factor in the shooting. He noted the investigation team continuously heard claims that a hostile work environment potentially existed within the government.

“These issues includes allegations that African American employees were being treated differently, that they were often more subject to discipline than their counterparts, that they were less likely to be promoted … that these employees felt they could not share their concerns with management for fear of retaliation,” said Heintze.

He added, “The employees and outside advocates that we heard from … felt that management was creating a challenging and difficult work environment.”

Denise Smallwood’s twin brother Joshua Hardy worked in the city’s public utilities department and was one of the 12 people killed in the shooting.

Speaking with 10 On Your Side after Tuesday night’s meeting, Smallwood said, “(Hardy) wasn’t (working) there 90 days and he told me. I called him and asked him how was the job going. He said it was a good old boy system down there.”

Smallwood said she wants more answers.

“Something had to occur within that organization, within this city, within that environment that caused that man to go in and take those innocent lives like that,” Smallwood said.

The Hillard Heintze investigation team has sent out a satisfaction survey to all city employees that’s available until Oct. 13.

Virginia Beach police also provided an update on its criminal investigation Tuesday night, noting there was nothing in the gunman’s past that indicated he would commit the violent acts.

The gunman had no history of domestic violence, no documented threatening encounters with coworkers and no known mental health treatment.

Deputy Chief Patrick Gallagher said Tuesday there was no pattern to the victims targeted in the shooting. “He shot people he knew and he shot people he did not know,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher noted there is still more than 6 terabytes of data that need to be looked through and the department is waiting for the FBI to complete its investigation.

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