Twelve individuals died when a former employee carried out a massacre on May 31, 2019 at the municipal office from which he had resigned that morning.
Forty-year-old DeWayne Craddock had worked as a certified professional engineer in Virginia Beach's public utilities department for 15 years preceding the attack.
On the morning of May 31, he emailed his resignation to the Virginia Beach city manager. Craddock was not forced to resign; had no pending disciplinary actions against him; and was in good standing in his department. Craddock told his supervisor that he was resigning for personal reasons.
Craddock returned to the municipal office around 4:00 p.m. that afternoon with two handguns, one equipped with a suppressor. He bought one of the guns in 2016 and the other in 2018.
The former employee shot and killed a contractor sitting in a parked car before entering the building, where he killed eleven other employees, engineers, and supervisors with the city's public works and public utilities departments. Craddock did not shoot some of the individuals with whom he crossed paths but killed others on three floors of the four-story building.
A survivor of the attack believes that the shooter targeted supervisors in his department. According to the survivor, the gunman walked past a number of employees on the second floor before opening fire in an area of the building where senior engineers and supervisors sat. Craddock killed his own supervisor in the shooting.
Police found Craddock in the building seven to ten minutes after responders were dispatched following reports of an active shooter. They engaged the gunman in a long shootout before he barricaded himself in a room. Craddock eventually died from a gunshot.
Authorities are still trying to figure out a motive for the attack. Those who knew and worked with the shooter said he was a "nice guy", and they did not see the violence coming. Madeline Holcombe, Holly Yan, and Mark Morales "New details emerge in the Virginia Beach mass shooting that left 12 people dead" cnn.com (Jun. 03, 2019); David Shortell "Virginia Beach shooter appeared to target supervisors in his department" cnn.com (Jun. 05, 2019).
The FBI defines four categories of workplace violence:
1. Violent acts by criminals who are not affiliated with the workplace;
2. Violence directed toward employees by customers or others who receive services from the organization;
3. Violence against coworkers or managers by current or former employees; and
4. Violence committed by someone who has a relationship with an employee, such as an abusive spouse.
Although workplace mass shootings like the one in Virginia Beach are rare, other forms of workplace violence, such as threats, bullying, domestic violence, emotional abuse, stalking, and harassment, are much more common.
The National Safety Council states that millions of American workers report being the victims of workplace violence every year. In 2017, assaults resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities in U.S. workplaces.
Homicide is the fourth-leading cause of workplace fatalities and occupational injuries in the United States.
Protect your employees from injury or loss of life by taking measures to reduce the risk that workplace violence will occur, and to mitigate the extent of the violence should it occur. Establish a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence.
Have an emergency plan that addresses the greatest risks faced by your employees. For example, if the workplace is located in a part of town with a high crime rate, develop a plan for how employees could deal with an armed robber entering the building.
Provide training to all employees on your safety policies so that they know what to do in a violent situation. Run drills so that employees can practice self-protection techniques.
Consider creating physical separation between employees and the public or requiring visitors to check in. Make high-risk areas visible to more people and install good external lighting. Limit the number of unlocked entrances to the workplace and monitor the points of public entry. Consider employing security guards or receptionists to screen people entering the workplace and control access to actual work areas.
Utilize security devices including closed-circuit security cameras, alarms, two-way mirrors, card-key access systems, and panic-bar doors locked from the outside. Examine work practices and staffing patterns during times of increased risks, including opening and closing and during money drops and pickups.