VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Commission to Investigate the May 31, 2019, Virginia Beach Mass Shooting will produce a preliminary report by November 1, with a final report likely coming months later.
Commissioners met in person today, discussing a plan forward, interview procedures, and how to review existing investigations and anonymous claims about the shooting
The commission is the latest effort to figure out why a Virginia Beach city employee shot and killed 12 people in 2019.
Thursday, commissioners decided to accept and consider an anonymous letter sent with multiple claims and concerns about previous mass shooting investigations.
It was forwarded to commissioners by State Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, and commissioners said it contains allegations of why people were killed, concerns about the shooting timeline, and claims of an unyielding atmosphere within the city of Virginia Beach employee structure, among other details.
Some are complaints that previous investigators have reviewed before, but ruled as unsubstantiated in their reports.
One commissioner, David Cariens, told commissioners he's personally conducted "30 to 50" interviews with people who are concerned about backlash from the city if they speak out with concerns.
"I talked with some of them and they’re people who said, 'I may or may not be there but I certainly won’t say what’s on my mind because I’ll be fired,'" Cariens explained.
Other commissioners immediately questioned why Cariens conducted individual interviews without the full commission. He responded by saying people approached him individually.
The commission voted to have interviews in writing, in public, or in front of the full commission moving forward.
Vice Chairman Butch Bracknell said the commission will review each previous investigation report, including the Hillard Heintze investigation and the FBI findings.
“We’re hoping to take the best and most reliable evidence out of each of them and synthesize them into something that satisfies the public's need to know about what happened, why it happened, and what we need to know moving forward," Bracknell said.
Responding to Cariens' comments, some commissioners said they’re concerned about amplifying unsubstantiated claims.
They said they will review allegations about a retaliatory workplace environment in Virginia Beach, but will look for proof.
The Hilliard Heintze independent investigation previously ruled there’s no clear motive for why the shooter killed 12 people, while an FBI investigation said "perceived workplace grievances" sparked the gunman’s actions.
The state commission listened to public comments following the meeting.
Bracknell said it will take a few months for commissioners to get up to speed, producing a preliminary report and then, later, complete findings.