Vir­ginia shoot­ing ram­page strikes at heart of city


Eleven of them were civil ser­vants, the kind of peo­ple who worked on con­struc­tion projects and wa­ter qual­ity and right-ofway is­sues. An­other was a lo­cal con­trac­tor who had come by for a per­mit.

Be­tween them, they had more than 150 years of ex­pe­ri­ence help­ing to make Vir­ginia’s largest city work – the un­elected, be­hind-the-scenes fig­ures who drew up plans, is­sued per­mits and per­formed the vi­tal jobs that help keep a com­mu­nity in­tact. And on Fri­day, their lives ended with a man’s bar­rage of bul­lets in a three­floor surge of ter­ror that once again pushed the na­tion’s death toll from mass shoot­ings higher.

“To­day, we all grieve,” said David L. Hansen, the Vir­ginia Beach city man­ager. “I have worked with most of them for many years. We want you to know who they were, so in the days and weeks to come, you will learn what they meant to all of us.”

He then be­gan a grim, halt­ing roll call of the dead. He started with LaQuita Brown, and he ended with Herbert Snelling. It lasted nearly three min­utes.

Only af­ter the last name was read did Hansen pause and ask the po­lice chief to talk about “that 13th per­son,” the 15-year city em­ployee who opened fire in Build­ing No. 2. Chief James A. Cervera iden­ti­fied the dead sus­pect, DeWayne An­to­nio Crad­dock, and said it would be “the only time we will an­nounce his name.”

So as state troop­ers stood guard and FBI agents in cargo pants col­lected ev­i­dence at the Vir­ginia Beach Mu­nic­i­pal Cen­ter on Satur­day, the city was left to take stock of those it had so sud­denly lost.

There was Alexan­der Mikhail Gu­sev, an im­mi­grant from Be­larus who had worked as a right of way agent and had been with the city for more than nine years. Be­fore the gun­fire, he had planned to spend Fri­day evening with his twin brother, re­pair­ing a prop­erty in nearby Portsmouth.

“It was get­ting late, so I called him and, you know, there was no an­swer,” said Ali­ak­sei Huseu, stand­ing in the door­way of his brother’s row­house Satur­day morn­ing. “He was a hard worker, but he liked fun. He would act a lit­tle bit like the fool just to make ev­ery­body smile. Ev­ery­body’s cry­ing. I’m not. I have a lot of thoughts in my head, but I’m not cry­ing. I don’t know why.”

Mary Louise Gayle had worked for the city for more than 24 years and reached a sweet spot in her life, friends and neigh­bors said. She had been look­ing for­ward to re­ceiv­ing a free day at a spa, a re­ward for her work in the right-of-way sec­tion of the pub­lic util­i­ties di­vi­sion.

Gayle, a sin­gle mother in her 60s who had raised a son and daugh­ter on her own, was known in the neigh­bor­hood for spend­ing hours work­ing in the yard of her metic­u­lously main­tained ranch house a few miles from work. She had re­cently pulled down a dy­ing pine tree, and re­placed it with a pair of aza­lea bushes – which were start­ing to flower in front of her empty house on Satur­day.

“She was a su­per sweet lady; she al­ways had this big smile,” said her nextdoor neigh­bor John Cush­man, 33, a fire­fighter in Portsmouth. “She would al­ways be out there in the yard, work­ing on some­thing and talk­ing to my daugh­ters.”

Ryan Keith Cox had lately been di­vid­ing his time be­tween his work as an ac­count clerk and his prepa­ra­tions for his first ser­mon.

Re­cently he felt “the Lord called him to preach,” his brother said, and wanted to fol­low his fa­ther, who has been a pas­tor for 56 years. “He felt that it was time,” said Ervin Cox Jr., Cox’s older brother.

“This is hard. It hurts, it hurts deep,” Ervin Cox said Satur­day.

And there was Brown, a Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness who was a na­tive of this coastal ship­build­ing re­gion. She was al­ready flu­ent in French, and was learn­ing Ja­panese and sign lan­guage so she could spread her faith.

“That’s my heart, that’s my first born,” her fa­ther, Dwight G. Brown Sr., said as he be­gan to cry. “I have two kids; now I only have a son. This is dev­as­tat­ing.”

The city iden­ti­fied each of the other vic­tims: Tara Welch Gal­lagher, an en­gi­neer; Kather­ine A. Nixon, an en­gi­neer who spent more than a decade work­ing for Vir­ginia Beach; Richard H. Net­tle­ton, a 28-year vet­eran of city gov­ern­ment who served along­side Hansen in the Army; Christo­pher Kelly Rapp, who joined the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment less than a year ago; Joshua O. Hardy, an en­gi­neer­ing tech­ni­cian; Michelle Langer, known as Missy, who was an ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant; Robert Wil­liams, a Pub­lic Util­i­ties De­part­ment em­ployee for 41 years; and Snelling, a con­trac­tor.

At least three more peo­ple were listed in crit­i­cal con­di­tion at lo­cal hos­pi­tals Satur­day.

There was no im­me­di­ate in­di­ca­tion that the gun­man tar­geted spe­cific peo­ple, many of whom he had worked along­side. City of­fi­cials would not dis­cuss the sus­pect or his work his­tory, but they said that he was an em­ployee at the time of the at­tack, that he had held a se­cu­rity ac­cess card and that he had been “au­tho­rized” to be where he was.

Two hand­guns found on the sus­pect were pur­chased legally in 2016 and 2018, Cervera said. Fed­eral of­fi­cials said that two other weapons were found dur­ing a search of the gun­man’s apart­ment; at least one had been pur­chased legally.

Cervera re­fused to dis­cuss a pos­si­ble mo­tive for the at­tack, which he said left “a hor­rific crime scene” and pro­voked “a long-term, large gun­fight” with po­lice of­fi­cers who re­sponded to 911 calls.


An­thony Moore, cen­ter, and his fi­ancée Kait­lyn Mitchell com­fort each other Satur­day dur­ing the prayer vigil fol­low­ing a shoot­ing at a mu­nic­i­pal build­ing in Vir­ginia Beach, Va.

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