VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Investigators hired to conduct an independent probe into the May 31 mass shooting want to reiterate what they will and will not be investigating.
“Unfortunately we can’t look into all problems in the city, but some of the problems may run parallel in our investigation,” said Kenneth Bouche, Chief Operating Officer of Hillard Heintze.
Bouche made the comments Monday night after the firm held its first “listening session” for the community. For nearly 1 1/2 hours, a mix of around 40 City of Virginia Beach employees, community activists and residents spoke in front of seven members of the Hillard Heintze team.
In the aftermath massacre that left 13 dead, including the gunman and four injured at the city’s municipal center, several of the victims’ families called for an outside investigation after reports that the shooter’s standing within the city’s public works department was different than what the city has reported.
The city announced the Chicago based Hillard Heintze, an approved federal contractor, will be leading the independent probe.
“Very, very glad to hear you wanted to find the ‘why,’ why this happened,” said Dr. James Allen of the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference.
‘”Hope and pray as you all review documents that you review the work environment where [the shooting] hatched. Virginia Beach has a work environment problem. Have no mistake bout that.”
Allen went on to discuss how Keith Cox, one of the victims of the shooting, told him about unfair treatment inside his city department.
Several employees from the Human Services Department, including Elizabeth Mann, who was fired following a confrontation with her supervisor after the mass shooting, described being bullied in the workplace.
“HR falls way short,” one woman said.
Several expressed that city leadership has been made aware of concerns, but failed to act.
The city has a policy of not commenting on personnel matters.
“We will be focusing on the work environment where the shooter worked,” Bouche told those in attendance. “But when we have specific examples of behaviors that rise to that level that is important for us to hear.”
At a meeting last week, Arnette Heintze, the founder of the firm stated he would not hesitate to publish information that could be damaging to the city.
In a 12-week time span, Hillard Heintze plans to compile a report that achieves the following:
- Determine and confirm exactly what happened and why on May 31
- Identify which actions might have helped prevent the tragedy or mitigate its consequences.
- Recommend the strategies, tactics and countermeasures that the city needs to implement to help ensure such an act of any similar one does not occur again.
A number has been set up for anyone to share perspectives and concerns with the team at 1 (877) 208‐5650, or one could send an email to VirginiaBeach@HillardHeintze.com.
Another listening session is set for Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.