Investigations reveal little insight on motive of May 31 shooter in Virginia Beach

Virginia News

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A year has passed since the unthinkable slaughter of 12 innocent lives in an appalling case of mass murder at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. But in many ways, we have the same unanswered questions one year later as we did the day after.

Virginia Beach Police are the main investigating agency but did not want to comment for this report, saying they wanted to rather focus on the victims and their families.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Virginia Beach) has reviewed the findings of various investigations to-date and has a personal stake in the incident and the investigation.

“For a while, I thought my job was to give hugs. I went to 14 funerals, wakes or memorial services,” Luria recalled about the immediate aftermath of the city’s deadliest mass shooting.

“I personally knew people who were in the building when this happened, and had to walk out through the area where the shooting happened,” she said.

And so many people, those who were affected, directly and indirectly, are still asking the same questions a year later.

“We’ve heard from family members of the deceased. I’ve spoken to survivors who injured themselves and everyone has the same question – why?” Luria said. “Why would somebody do something like this?”

In its report, independent consultant Hillard Heintze mirrored much of what police had found — no mental health history, no manifesto, no observations from colleagues that indicated a public works engineer who’d worked there nine years would explode in a fatal inferno of rage.

WAVY News is not naming the gunman.

“There’s just so many unanswered questions as to motive,” Luria said.

Police found no childhood trauma, no troubling incidents in his early life. They debunked theories that the shooter was angry over being denied a promotion. He had no criminal history.

Police say after his politely-worded resignation that afternoon, he got two legally-purchased handguns from his car, re-entered the building and murdered 12 people.

The consultant’s report credited the bravery and actions of first responders on May 31.
It recommended renovations for Building 2, which are now delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as adding 19 employees and establishing a Threat Assessment Team. So far, five of those 19 recommendations have been funded.

Luria worked to get the post office across the street named for Ryan Keith Cox in honor of his bravery in the face of danger.

“He rushed into the line of fire to try to save coworkers and did save the lives of several people,” Luria said, “and then rushed back out to save more people and then was killed in the shooting because of his heroic action.”

Luria worked with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) to make any contributions to the Virginia Strong Fund tax-deductible for both the donors and recipients.

Even with haunting questions unanswered, Luria has hope for the tragedy’s legacy.

“Virginia Beach is strong, Virginia Beach is better than this, Virginia Beach can rise above this,” she said.

Virginia Beach detectives plan to complete their investigation by the fall of this year. That will not be released to the public.

The latest state budget includes money for a state commission to look further into the mass shooting.

In a statement, Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) says she is anxious for it to begin, and while she concedes that some questions may never be answered, she hopes it will bring a sense of closure.

“As we approach the one year anniversary of the May 31st tragedy, families of those
that lost their lives, surviving victims, and employees are still left with questions. I
am relieved that this commission successfully passed through the General Assembly
and I am anxious for it to begin.

It is crucial for us as legislators to create laws that are based on facts and evidence.
That is what we are all hoping this commission brings – solutions to issues that we
will be able to confidently point to.

While there may be things we may never know and questions that may not be
answered, this tragedy deserves to have all options exhausted. I’m thankful that my
colleagues in the General Assembly and the Governor felt the same way. My hope is
that this will also bring a sense of closure to all of those affected by this awful


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