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Virginia Beach considers independent shooting investigation

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) The city of Virginia Beach may soon commission an independent investigation into the mass shooting that claimed 12 lives last month, but the findings might not come out quickly enough for some victims’ families, state lawmakers and city officials.

City Council members delved into a debate June 25 over how a third-party probe would proceed. One contentious issue is whether police would have control over when the separate investigation could begin.

Council members are considering a proposal that says the probe would commence only after police provided written assurance that it would not interfere with their own investigation.

A second proposal required no such approval.

“People are asking for answers now,” Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten said at a public council meeting.

Her proposal did not request assurance from police. She posed the question: What if police don’t provide it?

The shooting occurred May 31 when city engineer DeWayne Craddock opened fire in the municipal building where he worked. He had submitted his resignation notice the same day.

Calls have been mounting for the immediate release of more details. Concerns have been raised about Craddock’s behavior before the shooting as well as the police response to the massacre.

Police have said they have no time frame for when their investigation will finish. They also have not released details on any possible motive for the shooting.

“Expedience for the families is important,” Wooten said. “I keep hearing it. I’ve been emailed about it … information is coming on Facebook.”

James Wood, a City Council member and Virginia Beach’s vice mayor, said his proposal seeks assurance from police to help them get through their investigation.

Wood added that the independent probe would be broader in scope and focus on issues like workplace violence.

He said the probe would be conducted by an independent entity such as a law firm and would be similar to those that followed the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech and the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

“I understand that there is a desire by the victims’ families to get information out,” Wood said before the meeting. “But it has to be comprehensive information.”

The latest call for information came from two state lawmakers who represent parts of Virginia Beach. Cheryl Turpin and Kelly Convirs-Fowler released a statement Monday that said elected officials have not received a briefing since the week of the shooting.

Turpin and Convirs-Fowler are both Democrats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Convirs-Fowler said they need as much information as possible before a special legislative session on July 9 that Gov. Ralph Northam convened in the tragedy’s wake.

Northam, a Democrat, said he wants the Republican-led General Assembly to consider several gun control measures, including bans on silencers that are similar to the ones Craddock used. Republicans have given little indication that they plan to follow Northam’s agenda.

In their letter to council members, Turpin and Convirs-Fowler also cited an AP report that police lacked keycard access to parts of the building as they tried to get to the shooter.

“We have also heard of other communication failures and delays that took place in the aftermath of the shooting events,” the letter said. “There is yet another report that family members of victims are not receiving adequate information about the city lead investigation.”

The lawyer for the family of one woman who was killed, Kate Nixon, said that she had written Craddock up at work and thought he had a poor attitude. Attorney Kevin Martingayle also said the city should release Craddock’s full employment record.

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