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Mass shooting investigation in Virginia Beach reviewing 'toxic environment' claims among other things

Twelve people died in the shooting at the municipal center in May. The head of the third-party investigation into the shooting gave his first update to city council.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Nearly three months after the mass shooting that left 12 people dead at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, city council members received the first update from the independent investigation into the shooting.

The CEO of Hillard Heintze, Arnette Heintze, briefed the city council Tuesday afternoon. He said investigators have interviewed more than 90 people since the investigation started in July. 

RELATED: Independent review into mass shooting at Virginia Beach Municipal Center begins 

Hillard Heintze is the Chicago-based security risk management consulting firm hired to investigate what happened inside Building 2. Virginia Beach City Auditor Lyndon Remias joined Heintze in the briefing.

Heintze said investigators are reviewing employee reports and allegations of a "toxic work environment" as a potential contributing factor.

"We value this insight when people talk about a 'toxic environment' or what the situation was like in the building," Heintze said. "This is what we need the community and employees to come forward with, we can't make opinions about that, we need to hear facts about that."

As he updated council members, Heintze noted that the law firm received 95 emails and more than 50 telephone calls into its tip lines so far. He said all government employees have been cooperative and supportive.

Heintze told council members that the police department has been crucial and that the investigation has looked at more than 10 hours of body camera footage.

RELATED: Virginia Beach city council to discuss mass shooting survey results

Hillard Heintze is analyzing more than 6,500 documents and more than 335,000 emails and attachments. It is looking for clues and insight into the data. Heintze said the firm conducted 90 interviews so far and that 47 of those were with people who worked at Building 2. 

RELATED: Virginia Beach group voices concerns about independent investigation

The CEO said, "No one is going to hijack our investigation," adding that Virginia Beach has taken a fully “hands-off approach” in letting Hillard Heintze look at everything.

Relatives of Bert Snelling, one of the people killed in the shooting, talked to Heintze after the briefing and told him no independent investigator contacted them and they “feel like they’re just pushed aside.”

Snelling's wife said, “It’s not about being heard. It’s about not being informed because we’re not in the city, and we’re his family.” Heintze listened to Snelling's wife, and he immediately offered to talk to her more. 

Ahead of the briefing, the law firm's team held two listening sessions for city employees.

RELATED: Trump signs bill renaming Virginia Beach post office after mass shooting hero Keith Cox

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