DeWayne Craddock had spent nearly 15 years working as an engineer in Virginia Beach’s Department of Public Utilities, until Friday morning, when he submitted his resignation to his supervisors.
After lunch, he brushed his teeth in a company bathroom, as he usually did. Then at around 4 p.m., just as his coworkers were packing up to leave for the weekend, he opened fire, killing 12 and wounding six.
He was shot in a protracted exchange with police and died on his way to the hospital.
By Monday, with funeral preparations for the deceased victims underway, police were still looking for a motive to explain what led the 40-year-old shooter to commit such a violent act.
Police Chief James Cervera on Friday characterized the gunman as a “disgruntled” employee. However, authorities haven’t said whether the victims — which included two supervisors — were targeted.
Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen told reporters over the weekend that the gunman had exhibited no “red flags”: He had resigned of his own volition, was in “good standing,” and had no ongoing discipline problems. One former colleague told CNN that the gunman informed his boss, Richard Nettleton, that he’d handed in his resignation for “personal reasons” — hours before he killed him.
But a person described as someone close to Virginia Beach’s city government told the New York Times gave a very different picture of the shooter’s professional standing. The person, who said they weren’t allowed to speak publicly, told the Times that the shooter, in his 15 years of employment, hadn’t exhibited any behavioral problems until recently, when he had started acting “strangely” and even getting into physical “scuffles” with other employees.
When the shooter came to work Friday, he brought with him two .45-caliber guns, which he used in the massacre. Police said both the guns were purchased legally, in 2016 and 2018 respectively. One of the guns was accessorized with a sound muffler, and he also used extended magazines, which enabled him to pack extra ammunition. Police said he fired “indiscriminately’ on the three floors of the Virginia Beach office complex.
"I heard a couple of people screaming that there was a shooter in the building," Ned Carlstrom, an account clerk in the city's utilities department, told WRAL. "It didn't sound real; the shots were real muffled and we thought it was a drill." Carlstrom added that there was a community workshop scheduled for the following morning about what to do during mass shootings.
Upon searching his residence in the quiet cul-de-sac where he lived, police said they found two additional guns but did not say when they were purchased or if they were bought legally.
What neighbors noticed
His neighbors who occupied the downstairs unit of a grey duplex where they lived told the Washington Post that the shooter usually went to work early Monday through Thursday, but tended to get a later start on Fridays. That’s why it struck Amanda Archer, 22, as odd when she saw him at 6:45 Friday morning sitting in his white Subaru, staring “straight ahead.”
Neighbors also told the Post that they’d noticed how the shooter had three cameras set up in his windows, trained on the parking lot.
Before he started working for the city, the gunman did a brief stint at a private Virginia firm as a project engineer. A company bulletin announcing that he’d been hired from July 2003 stated that he had a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and had previous experience working for the Army Training and Support Center.
He’d also enlisted in the Virginia National Guard in April 1996, and was assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, CNN reported. By the time he was discharged in April 2002, he’d gained the rank of “specialist.” A spokesperson for the National Guard did not say why he was discharged.
The shooter’s family, who live just an hour from Virginia Beach, posted a handwritten note on their front door, saying that they wished to send their “heartfelt condolences to the victims.” “We are grieving the loss of our loved one,” the note read. “At this time we wish to focus on the victims and the lives loss (sic) during yesterday’s tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who loss their lives, and those recovering in the hospital.”
Cover: A woman who did not wish to be identified writes a note on the back of a cross for Michelle Langer, a victim of a mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va., at a nearby makeshift memorial, Sunday, June 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)