VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Christi Dewar said Friday afternoon there were two ice cream sundae birthday celebrations happening in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.
Then, around 4 p.m. the gunman, DeWayne Craddock, started the events that lead to the killing of 12 people and injuring 4 in just a few minutes.
Dewar said Keith Cox, a victim who was killed during the mass shooting, saved lives.
Watch her full interview with 13News Now reporter Jaclyn Lee here:
The City of Virginia Beach Account Clerk II said she heard what sounded like a nail gun, but didn’t think anything of it. She said there were plans for upcoming renovations on the building.
Then, she said a co-worker burst in.
“Claudia says, ‘This is not a drill, this is an active shooter in the building! Run! Get off your phones! Run! Get out!’” Dewar said.
She said she grabbed her purse. She tried to run with several other colleagues toward an exit.
“Then I heard somebody else screaming, ‘It’s too late! Run the other way! Hurry! Run!” Dewar explained.
Dewar said Ryan Keith Cox, a public utilites employee for 12.5 years and known by everyone as Keith, immediately took control. She said he told them to barricade themselves in the closest office.
“We all went in there, and I turned and I said, ‘Keith!’ and he said, ‘I got to check on everybody else!’ and we shut the door and locked it and pushed a metal cabinet [in front].”
Seconds later, Dewar said the shooter shot through the door four times, with two bullets almost piercing through that metal cabinet. Dewar said she and her coworkers huddled together, shaking and crying as they realized the wall protecting them was a flimsy partition.
“We were afraid to move, so finally we heard, ‘Code blue! Code blue! Police! Anybody here?’" Dewar said. She said they started screaming that they were there.
Officers escorted everyone out. While they did, Dewar said she saw splintered wood and broken doors off their hinges. She said it looked like “total chaos.”
“They had us go down the south stairwell, and there was a body there on the landing, covered in blood,” cried Dewar. “They had her covered up. I just started shaking and crying and I just stopped, and I kept staring and the officer said, ‘Don’t stare at the body, look away.’ I stopped and I said, ‘I can’t do this’ and he said, ‘Yes you can, you’re strong enough! Come on! Don’t look! Step over her.’”
Dewar later learned that the body was Michelle ‘Missy’ Langer, one of her friends.
Dewar learned, when officials released the names of all the victims, that she was friends with four of them. Keith was among them.
Dewar described Keith as a “guardian angel” who was concerned about everybody.
“Keith is somebody that would do anything for anybody and he did, he gave his life,” said Dewar. “He needs to be honored and respected and the city needs to do something to memorialize his heroism.”