The number of mass shootings this year is up 27.5% from where it was this time last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive’s database.
Adding to that grim statistic is Friday’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that claimed 12 lives and launched a frantic but familiar search for answers to what prompted the gunman and how the tragedy might have been averted.
On Saturday, officials named the 12 victims of the shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.
Authorities said workplace shootings, carried out by gunmen who are familiar with the interior of the office or facility, and who can exploit their knowledge protocols and procedures in the event of a shooting, make situations like Friday’s among the most challenging to respond to and difficult to prevent.
What officials had to offer, instead of assurances that there will never been a next time, were anguished remembrances of the municipal workers who lost their lives.
“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, to their families, to their friends, and to their co-worker,” city manager Dave Hansen told reporters Saturday before reading the names of the victims on-by-one as their images were projected on a screen.
“They leave a void we will never be able to fill,” Hansen added.
In what has become another macabre tradition, the president tweeted his support and well wishes for the relatives of the victims and those wounded in the attack, offering his support “for whatever they need.”
Spoke to Virginia Governor @RalphNortham last night, and the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Virginia Beach this morning, to offer condolences to that great community. The Federal Government is there, and will be, for whatever they may need. God bless the families and all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2019
Eleven of the 12 victims worked for the city, mostly in public works and public utilities. They were Laquita Brown, Ryan Cox, Tara Gallagher, Mary Gayle, Alexander Gusev, Joshua Hardy, Michelle Langer, Richard Nettleton, Katherine Nixon, Christopher Rapp, and Robert Williams.
Hansen said the twelfth victim, Herbert Snelling, was a contractor who was filling a permit.
“This is hard,” Ervin Cox Jr., brother of victim Ryan Cox, told The New York Times. “It hurts. It hurts deep. Just to have such a senseless thing done to take his life, to take him away from us.”
Four additional victims were in serious condition Saturday morning.
After Hansen spoke, Police Chief James Cervera named the suspected shooter, DeWayne Craddock, 40, whom police killed Friday night in what Cervera called “a long-term, large gun fight.” The gunman, an engineer who had worked with the city for 15 years, lived in Virginia Beach. A search of his criminal background showed only a handful of traffic violations, according to public records available Saturday.
Cervera declined to address the suspect’s motives.
“Right now, we have a lot of questions,” Cervera told reporters Friday. “The whys, they will come later. Right now, we have more questions than we have answers.”
The gunman opened fire in the office building Friday afternoon after killing one person in the parking lot. He entered the building legally using his employee ID badge, officials said Saturday.
He was armed with a a .45-caliber handgun with a noise suppressor, or “silencer,” and an extended magazine. Police said they also found other weapons at the scene and at his home. He bought the weapons legally and recently, law-enforcement sources told The Washington Post.
Cervera was emotional Saturday when he spoke of the toll on investigators who worked in the municipal building overnight to secure evidence and process the crime scene.
“It took a physical, emotional and psychological toll on everyone who spent the night in that building,” Cervera said.
The incident marks the 150th mass shooting in the U.S. this year, defined as any shooting with four or more injuries or fatalities, according to the nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive.
It is also the deadliest shooting documented by the group so far this year.
This post has been updated adding Trump’s tweet.