RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Two local delegates want to establish a state commission to look into May’s deadly mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.
Republican Del. Jason Miyares and Democratic Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler are sponsoring HB 658, and held a press conference Tuesday in Richmond to promote the legislation.
The goal of the bill is to learn more about the tragedy, including investigating the underlying motive, and to avoid anything like it in the future. The state investigation would be separate from the independent investigation conducted by Hillard Heintze and investigations by the Virginia Beach Police Department and FBI.
Del. Convirs-Fowler delivered remarks on the House floor of the General Assembly Tuesday afternoon.
If approved, the commission, consisting of 20 members appointed by the General Assembly and governor would make recommendations and improvements. The Superintendent of State Police would also serve ex officio as a nonvoting member.
Supporters of the state legislation, which include members of the victims’ families, emphasized that the Hillard Heintze team framed the independent probe as a more of a “review” of procedures and not a full “investigation.”
“They came not to do an investigation … [Hillard Heintze] look into and review what has been done, from the police department and whoever else is looking into that, and they summarize, they say this was good, your communication wasn’t well, your policies and procedures are out of date, you could’ve done this,” said Sonja Snelling, whose husband Bert was killed in the shooting. “They had no subpoena power, they asked no other questions, they had no rights to anything except for what was given to them.”
Miyares also pointed to conflicting stories, such as Hillard Heintze wrongly saying they didn’t have access to the gunman’s computer, giving the victims’ families and the public concerns about the independent probe.
The FBI is also conducting an investigation, and the final report won’t be released until later this year.
During the meeting, state Sen. Bill DeSteph, (R-Virginia Beach), appeared to be wavering on his support for the bill when he suggested they may need to wait.
Jason Nixon, whose wife Kate was killed in the shooting on May 31, said to DeSteph the FBI report may not be done for an extended period of time.
It is likely to come out after the General Assembly session ends.
DeSteph responded by saying it’s unlikely to see a more thorough investigation than the one the FBI is conducting.
“Well, I hate to say it, but you need to wait until it (the FBI report) is done,” he said. “There is not going to be a more thorough investigation than the FBI.”
10 On Your Side was in the room where it was said, and asked DeSteph whether he was saying he can’t support HB 658, the bill that would organize the separate investigation commission.
“I have not said that. I said you need to wait until the FBI report is done because it is the most extensive report you are ever going to see,” DeSteph said.
Del. Cliff Hayes, (D-Chesapeake) said he wanted to make sure the commission is formed to help get to the bottom of what happened.
Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), said he “can’t imagine” how difficult it is to retell “things so much times” to different people during the investigations.
“I just want you to know, we are here for you, and we hear you. Having you come here in person and share your personal stories, which of course are so tragic, makes a difference, just in case you were wondering,” newly-elected Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, (D-Fairfax County), said, addressing victims and survivors.