They were 11 people who were just doing their jobs, and a 12th man who was at the Virginia Beach municipal center to get a permit.
By the end of the afternoon, they were all deceased, the victims in the latest mass shooting tragedy to afflict the United States. The mass shooting broke out at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, building 2, near the courthouse, on May 31, 2019. All but one of those killed were city workers. The final person killed was a contractor seeking a permit.
On the morning of June 1, police released the victims’ names with photos and biographies. (You can read our previous article rounding up the heroism of victims and survivors in past mass shootings here.)
Here are the deceased victims’ names. They are of multiple ages, ethnic backgrounds, and genders. Their time of service ranged from a couple months to 41 years. They sang in the church choir, played bagpipes, traveled with spouses, and took care of grandkids. You can read bios of each here.
“I have worked with most of them for many years,” said Dave Hansen, Virginia Beach City Manager. “We want you to know who they were so in the weeks to come you will learn what they meant to all of us, to their friends, to their families, and to their co-workers. They leave a void that we will never be able to fill.”
Laquita C. Brown worked in public works for 4.5 years, as a right of way agent. She was from Chesapeake.
Tara Welch Gallagher worked in public works for 6 years, and was an engineer from Virginia Beach.
Mary Louise Gayle had 24 years in public works as a right-of-way agent and was from Virginia Beach.
Alexander Mikhail Gusev spent 9 years in public works as a right of way agent and was from Virginia Beach.
Katherine A. Nixon, spent 10 years in public utilities as an engineer and was from Virginia Beach.
Richard H. Nettleton spent 28 years in public utilities as an engineer and was from Norfolk. He also served in an engineer brigade in Germany.
Christopher Kelly Rapp had 11 months in the job as an engineer in public works and was from Powhatan.
Ryan Keith Cox spent 12.5 years in public utilities as an account clerk and was from Virginia Beach.
Joshua O. Hardy worked in public utilities for 4.5 years as an engineering technician and was from Virginia Beach.
Michelle Missy Langer worked in public utilities for 12 years as an administrative assistant and was from Virginia Beach.
Robert Bobby Williams worked in public utilities for 41 years as a special projects coordinator and was from Chesapeake.
Herbert Bert Snelling was a contractor from Virginia Beach. He was there to try to fill a permit.
One man, Brent Werlein, wrote a heartbreaking description of some of the victims.
This is something that is very hard to put out there.
Ryan Keith Cox was a good man who worked in the business division. I would speak with him on occasion but it was mostly hellos and smiles.
Michelle “Missy” Langer was an administrative person who I worked with daily. She was a fun loving person who recently (last year or two) lost her father. She was always someone who I could approach and end could talk with. She was like an aunt to me.
Robert “Bobby” Williams was a special projects coordinator who I also worked daily with. We would talk and discuss ways to try and solve issues in the sanitary sewer system. He had alot of institutional knowledge and was setting his sites on retiring some time in 2019 so he could be with family.
Joshua A. Hardy was an engineering technition (sic) who was always fun to be arround. Him and I would joke each other and prank eachother just like brothers. Pranks would be as simple as turning name tags upside down or me leaving him some illuminati symbols hidden in his desk area. He was someone who we could get riled up in a good way making him think the illuminati where watching. Some of his pranks he and coworkers did to me would be wrapping everything in my office in wrapping paper, and buying a keyboard to immurse in jello. He was a brother who everyday would bring a smile to your face. He was a part of the pictures shared in this post
Richard H. Nettleton was an engineering buraue lead. I would work with him on some projects. He had a lot of institutional knowledge and was always approachable.
Katherine A. Nixon. This one is the hardest to write. She was smart caring person who I could talk to at any time. A sister and a supervisor. We could share crazy things that our kids would do and say, and tease eachother about the goofiness of the tantrums kids can throw. She was a supervisor everyone would want, tough on you when you needed it, pushed you as you needed it, discipline you as needed, and also compasionate. She was someone who truly understood the work life balancing act everyone has to do…
The hardest thing about all of this is I would have been right there in it, had my daycare not been closed for the day. I left at 2:15 from Kates office to pick up my son from school. My last words to her where “see you monday”.
Friday started off like any other friday. I brought in doughnuts for the day and we had a directors briefing about software I and a couple coworkers gave. In that meeting where a few of the victims. The meeting went really well and everyone was excited and motivated and looking forward to the progress we where going to be making.
They will be missed
“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” said Mayor Bobby Dyer. “The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbors, colleagues.”
Police Chief James A. Cervera confirmed the casualty count and called it a “devastating incident that…is going to change the lives of a number of families from our city.” A police officer was shot but was “saved by his vest,” said the chief. At one point, the suspect was shooting through a door on the second floor as officers arrived. “We do have shots coming through that door,” an officer said on the scanner early on.
The scanner traffic chronicled a chilling scene as officers found people hiding, referred to casualties, and tried to stop the suspect. You can listen to the live scanner reports later in this article. The police chief said he had a .45 caliber gun with extended magazines and engaged in a “gun battle” with officers. Police initially said there were 11 deceased victims but another person then died.
The suspect is dead. He was a current public utilities worker, said the chief.
Shortly after 4 p.m., the suspect, a long-time city employee, entered the municipal center and began to “indiscriminately fire on all the victims,” the chief said in the first news conference on the situation. The motive is not yet clear. Although earlier reports said the suspect had been fired, the chief said he was a “current employee” and added that the shooting occurred over multiple floors. “I have a gunshot victim outside of building 1. He was shot a couple of times,” an officer said on the scanner. “We’ve got several citizens we’re trying to keep safe at this moment.”
But the center of it all was Building 2. Officers responded to that building. They secured as many of the victims as they could. “The suspect did shoot a police officer. Officers returned fire. Suspect is deceased. The scene is secure,” said the chief.
However, it was clear immediately that there was a very dangerous situation at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. “The basement has been cleared,” authorities said around 5:23 p.m. on the scanner, indicating they were still going from room-to-room inside the municipal building at that time. They later declared the building stabilized.
The first police public release on the mass shooting was concise but something no city wants to hear: “ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION-municipal center, building 2. Multiple injuries. At this time it is believed that only 1 shooter, and they have been taken into custody. More to follow,” Virginia Beach police reported on Twitter on May 31, 2019.