VB mass shooting independent investigators reveal findings


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Chicago-based firm conducting an independent investigation into the Virginia Beach mass shooting shared its results with City Council Wednesday night.

The presentation comes nearly six months after the May 31 shooting. Police said a city engineer killed 12 people and seriously hurt four others at Building 2 at the city’s Municipal Center.

The team of investigators created a timeline of the shooting, and review the shooter’s employment history and city policies. The full 262-page report is available on the City Auditor’s Office website as soon as the 6 p.m. meeting is over.

Overall, investigators said they found some rumors about the incident and the shooter were unsubstantiated. Other rumors, such as details of the shooter’s declining work performance, were found to be true.

The investigative team conducted 230 interviews.

“I think as far as the ‘why,’ people want a good clean answer … those clear answer just don’t exist,” said Debra Kirby, of Hillard Heintze.

Before the special Virginia Beach City Council meeting, the Hillard Heintze firm met privately with family members of victims to brief them on the findings.

Key findings

During the meeting, company CEO Arnette Heintze presented six key findings of the investigation, although he said a full understanding of the mass shooting wouldn’t be clear until the FBI and other agencies finalize their investigations.

Overall, the report issued 58 suggestions to the city in the wake of the shooting.

The first key finding revolves around heroic actions documented by investigators about employees of Building 2 during the shooting. One called 911 from his office, providing details before he was shot and severely wounded. Another person helped lead her coworkers to safety.

“We believe that the actions of many of these employees helped save countless lives,” Heintze said.

The second key finding regard the attacker. Hillard Heintze investigators say the attacker did not show any warning signs in the workplace ahead of the shooting, although he did visit mass shooting websites leading up to the May 31 tragedy.

“He didn’t have relationship at work that could’ve potentially provided insight into his struggles,” Heintze said.

The third key finding revealed there was room for improvement in Virginia Beach’s workplace violence prevention plan. The fourth finding said the city needed to centralize its Human Resources function to improve employee engagement.

Hillard Heintze also found, in its fifth key finding, that the city needs to expand its critical incident response system to include mass notifications and other functions.

The sixth key finding made recommendations for improvements to the city’s physical and technical security. First responders did not have access to critical areas of the building during the mass shooting.

The computer

Heintze indicated the FBI may have more answers, depending on what they find on the shooter’s computer. Hillard Heintze investigators did not have access to the computer, Heintze said.

City Council member Sabrina Wooten said she was concerned the Hillard Heintze report didn’t take information from the shooter’s computer into account — and that she hoped the public could learn more about him once the FBI releases information about what was found on the device.

“To me, that’s a missing key here,” Wooten said.

Kirby added Hillard Heinze investigators did learn “a lot of information” about the attacker, but are hesitant to say why he did it because there could be relevant additional information uncovered on his computer.

Kirby said any manifesto or other pertinent documents could be found by the FBI, if they exist.

Work environment

Investigators confirmed they found several emails in drafts on the shooter’s computer disputing discipline he had received at work that he believed was unjust.

Those emails were never sent.

The group also looked into claims of a toxic work environment, after meeting with two groups of employees who say African-Americans are treated unfairly.

Heintze said investigators did not find widespread evidence of a toxic work environment or racist culture in the Virginia Beach city workplace.

A city survey shows claims of a toxic work environment is not widespread. 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox just did a special report on the hostility claims within the city.

An independent survey contracted through Hillard Heintze also mimicked the findings of the city’s survey, Heintze said. About 42 percent of the workforce answered the survey, which is considered a statistically valid sample size.


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