VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A longtime city employee opened fire at a municipal building in Virginia Beach on Friday, killing 12 people before police shot and killed him, authorities said.
Six other people were wounded in the shooting, including a police officer whose bulletproof vest saved his life, said Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera. The city’s visibly shaken mayor, Bobby Dyer, called it “the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach.”
The shooting happened shortly after 4 p.m. when the veteran employee of the Public Utilities Department entered a building in the city’s Municipal Center, and “immediately began to indiscriminately fire upon all of the victims,” Cervera said. He did not release the suspect’s name.
Police entered the building and got out as many employees as they could, then exchanged fire with the suspect, who was killed, the chief said.
The shooting sent shock waves through Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city and a popular vacation spot in southeastern Virginia. The building where the attack took place is in a suburban complex miles away from the high-rise hotels along the beach and the downtown business area.
The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and was monitoring the situation.
Megan Banton, an administrative assistant who works in the building where the shooting happened, said she heard gunshots, called 911 and barricaded a door.
“We tried to do everything we could to keep everybody safe,” she said. “We were all just terrified. It felt like it wasn’t real, like we were in a dream. You are just terrified because all you can hear is the gunshots.”
She texted her mom, telling her that there was an active shooter in the building and she and others were waiting for police. Banton works in an office of about 20 people that is part of the public works department.
“Thank God my baby is OK,” Banton’s mother, Dana Showers, said.
Five of the injured were being treated at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital and a sixth was being transferred to the Trauma Center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Healthcare tweeted.
At a nearby middle school, friends and relatives were reuniting with loved ones who were in the building when the shooting happened. They included Paul Swain, 50, who said he saw his fiancee from across the parking lot, clearly in an agitated state.
“I think she knew some of the people,” he said.