VBPD releases interim investigative report on May 31 mass shooting — with new details, but still no ‘why’

Virginia Beach Mass Shooting

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Almost one month ahead of the anniversary of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, the city has released another report looking into the “who, what, where, when and how.”

But officials still say the “why” of the shooting — which left 12 dead plus the gunman, a city employee — may never be known.

On Friday, Acting City Manager Tom Leahy released the police department’s Interim Investigative Executive Summary of the May 31 mass shooting in Building 2 of the Municipal Center. The report is intended to give an update on the investigation and the progress made to-date.

“As we approach the anniversary of that tragic day, our entire agency, and no doubt our community, have reflected on that day and individually or collectively sought to understand why this tragedy took place,” Police Chief Jim Cervera wrote in an inter-office memorandum included in the report.

He continued: “It should go without saying, the suspect had a reason for why he decided to engage in a shooting spree, killing 12 innocent people and injuring 5 others. His actions were not an accident.”

The report shows some new details about the incident, including how the shooter had no indication or childhood trauma or “troubling” behaviors while young. Police also said one electronic device belonging to him — a tablet with a password — remains inaccessible.

The shooting

The report gives a timeline of the shooting, which started just before 4:03 p.m. and lasted about 44 minutes, ending with the shooting subsequent death of the shooter, City of Virginia Beach Public Utilities Engineer Dewayne Craddock.

The report only names the shooter once, identifying him only as “the suspect” in other references.

Police say there are no common characteristics between the victims, from their age, to race, to gender.

Investigators also tried to reenact the sequence of the shooting spree using the city’s electronic door entry system (Lenel), cellphone call logs, the firealarm activation, 911 calls to ECCS, police radio time stamps and other evidence that “anchored the suspect in certain areas of the building.”

The report also details who made up the investigating team, as the typical investigators that would have led the investigations into the criminal mass homicide and the officer-involved shooting were both involved in the shooting at Building 2.

Investigators made more than 1,000 contacts and interviews with 523 residents and family members.

The report lays out the challenges investigators faced as well, including:

  • “12 deceased victims, one deceased suspect
  • 4 critically injured victims
  • 100,000 square foot building and surrounding parking lot was declared a crime scene
  • Crime scenes at the Suspects home and vehicle
  • Energy and resources diverted to investigate potential co defendants
  • Hundreds of interviews
  • Global focus and public demand for information often pulled investigative resources out of the investigation to address and evaluate release information, address conspiracy theories, and evaluate Freedom of Information Act requests
  • Communicating with City leadership on criminal investigative constraints, strategies and methodologies
  • Navigating the path of ensuring that core critical City functions could be
  • maintained/resumed without compromising evidence and investigative practices
  • Maintaining continuity of police services for the City while supporting this investigation
  • Overcoming program limitations that had never been encountered before, such as MS Word per document size limit, and the evidence management program, Bar Coded Evidence Analysis Statistical Tracking (BEAST), limiting per item property and evidence to 250 items per case
  • Maintaining investigative momentum while detailing investigators to facilitate the independent review by Hilliard Heintze”

“It is important to note that no single witness or group of people witnessed the shooting spree incident from start to finish. Many witnesses saw a portion of the incident, and either extrapolated or compiled other employee comments that were not in concert with the Investigative Divisions conclusions based on evidence collected,” the report reads.

Police also detailed the process of collecting digital evidence.

“The Computer Crimes Unit assisted the Building 2 Investigation by creating forensic backups and analyzing numerous electronic and digital devices that were collected from the crime scene and the Suspect’s residence. These devices included personal and City issued cell phones, tablets, iPads, desktop computers, laptop, external hard drives, USB devices, and camera memory cards.”

Police said one of the devices, a tablet recovered from the gunman’s home, was password protected and unable to be accessed by police as of the date of the report.

“Despite months of programmatic and human review of the digital evidence, the investigation was unable to identify any markers, documents, files, or photographs that would identify a common denominator of why the Suspect selected specific victims and spared others. Some of the victims had no nexus at all to the Suspect.”

The suspect

The report says the suspect does not have any identifiable childhood trauma or troubling incidents during adolescence or early adulthood.

He purchased his first handgun shortly after surprising a burglar in his home in 2005.

He married in 2008, started working for the city in February 2010 and purchased a home with his wife in Virginia Beach in 2010.

In 2014, the suspect was the victim of a car larceny. He then purchased two video cameras that pointed at his parking spaces at his house.

“Through interviews with the Suspect’s family it was relayed to investigators that he became isolated from his relatives. They described him as introverted, paranoid and uncomfortable around people. In 2016, he began to legally purchase several firearms and obtained a concealed weapon permit. It was later that year that he and his wife separated.”

The report also details his work life: He was not denied a promotion, had no violent encounters at work, and no consistent contact with others at home.

“On the day of the event, after his unexpected but politely worded resignation, the Suspect spent the rest of the afternoon conducting a pass down of his projects. Before he left the building, he brushed his teeth as per his daily work routine, then walked outside to his car, retrieved two handguns, and committed his first known criminal act with the commencement of this murder spree.”

“To date, there is no evidence to support what the Suspect’s motive was.”

Report process

The investigation is now focused on analyzing and evaluating the evidence collected, the process for which has been mostly completed, according to the report.

“It should be noted that 100% of the Virginia Beach Police Department’s investigative work-product and evidence was made available to the Independent Investigation conducted by the Hillard Heintze
Company,” the report reads.

The completion of a full report from VBPD on the shooting is expected to be completed and approved by the police chief by fall 2020. It will not be released to the public.

This story is breaking and will be updated.


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