- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Some families of Virginia Beach mass shooting victims spoke Tuesday in support of a new bill to create an independent commission to investigate the crime, which left 12 dead and four injured.

Virginia Beach Dels. Kelly K. Convirs-Fowler and Jason S. Miyares introduced bipartisan House Bill 658, which would form a 21-member committee to investigate the underlying motive of last year’s massacre at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. Four of the victim’s families attended the press event, according to Convirs-Fowler’s office.

On May 31, disgruntled city employee DeWayne Craddock used two handguns to open fire on the property. He resigned from his position as an engineer that morning.

The city and the FBI are currently conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting. Families at the press conference said they’re not satisfied with the results of an independent report commissioned by the city and conducted by security risk management firm Hillard Heintze. They also are unhappy with the lack of communication from the Virginia Beach Police Department during the investigation.

The legislation proposes a commission made up of 20 appointed citizens, as well as the State Police superintendent, who will serve as a non-voting member. Convirs-Fowler, a Democrat, said that voting members will have significant experience in law enforcement, as a jurist, local government administrator, first responder, forensic psychologist, security expert or I.T. specialist.



Family members of the victims took questions at the conference and expressed their displeasure toward the city government of Virginia Beach. Jason and Alexis Nixon, Sonja Snelling and Aliaksei Huseu were among the family members present.

“We just feel like there really needs to be someone on the outside that can look at this thing with fresh eyes,” said Snelling, wife of Herbert “Bert” Snelling, who was killed during the shooting.

Virginia Beach Vice Mayor James Wood said that the city is receiving support from the FBI in its investigation, which is ongoing. The Hillard Heintze report found no “definitive motive” for the attack.

“I would ask that it wait until the current investigations are completed so as not to further impede progress,” Wood said in a released statement. “I would also hope the state would fund (and staff) such an investigation.”

City Auditor Lyndon Remias said that the Hillard Heintze investigation was commissioned in response to an outcry from the families affected by the mass shooting, which led to a 262-page report. The firm inspected the shooter’s home and work life, court records, police response and other factors to gain a greater understanding of the incident and to search for a motive behind the attack.

“It was a summarized report of what the City of Virginia Beach gave us,” said Jason Nixon, husband of Katherine Nixon, 42, who was killed during the shooting. “We’re looking for answers. We’re looking for someone to actually investigate.”

“The victims, their families and Virginia Beach residents have serious issues with the city investigation, and a general feeling that it was neither thoroughly or sufficiently independent to be effective,” Convirs-Fowler said.

When asked how the State Commission’s investigation would be different than the independent report, Convirs-Fowler said that the commission would have greater authority to make change and would provide accountability.

Miyares, a Republican, said he wants to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

“We have families that are grieving and angry,” he said.

Remias said a third investigation would open wounds in the community, and that it may not be the best course of action.

The Virginia Beach Mass Shooting was one of 417 mass shootings in the United States last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which uses daily incident reports from law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources. This year there have been 21 mass shootings in the U.S.

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This article was provided to The Associated Press by Virginia Commonwealth University Capital News Service.

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