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2019 Va. mass shooting report calls for increased stop the bleed training

The report on the shooting in Virginia Beach that killed 12 people covered more training for first responders and teaching civilians how to slow victim bleeding

By Ben Finley
Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. — A state commission has called for numerous changes to how Virginia and its communities respond to mass shootings, from establishing a victims’ fund to teaching people how to slow bleeding before paramedics arrive.

But the panel’s final report on a 2019 mass shooting at a Virginia Beach government building offered little information that was new or overtly critical of how the massacre was handled.

[RELATED: 13 dead, including gunman, in shooting at Virginia Beach Municipal Center]

A city engineer had killed 12 people and wounded four others before police fatally shot him. The shooter, DeWayne Craddock, had legally purchased six guns in the three years before the rampage, including the two .45-caliber pistols that were used, authorities said.

The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit found in 2021 the shooting “was motivated by perceived workplace grievances.” However, the agency cautioned that no person or group was in a position to “see the confluence of behaviors that may have forewarned the attack.”

Before its public release this week, family members of some victims saw the commission’s final report as their last chance at accountability. They have alleged a failure by supervisors in Craddock’s office to recognize warning signs in a toxic workplace.

Instead, the document mostly contained recommendations to state lawmakers on how to better prevent and respond to future violence, including in government workplaces.

For example, the commission said the state should require local governments to have emergency action plans, while first responders should have access to all parts of any government building. In 2019, Virginia Beach police could not confront the gunman at one point because they lacked second-floor key cards.

The report acknowledged the commission’s limitations as an investigative body. Obstacles included no subpoena power to interview city employees as well as a lack of adequate funding.

A commission that investigated the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech had a $460,000 budget and eight pro-bono lawyers, the report stated. The Virginia Beach commission had no pro-bono lawyers and a $38,500 budget.

The panel lacked “the resources to bring in specialists for consultations in the fields of psychology, security, human resources, or lawyers who specialize in handling mass shootings,” the report stated.

The commission initially had 21 members, which led to scheduling challenges and canceled meetings. Virginia’s Attorney General lambasted the commission in December, citing its “overall dysfunction” and the resignation of nearly half its members.

Ryant Washington, the commission’s chair, did not immediately respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment.

David Cariens, a commission member who resigned before the final report’s release, said the panel failed.

“The legislature said investigate,” said Cariens, who left in part over the commission’s lack of investigatory powers. “What was produced is not an investigation. It is a college term paper.”

Unlike some reports that have followed other mass shootings, the Virginia Beach document does not consider the matter of gun restrictions, said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University professor of criminology, law and public policy.

“They didn’t take up the sort of elephant in the room, which is the adequacy of Virginia’s gun laws,” said Fox, who oversees a mass shootings database that’s compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

“States that have bans on large capacity magazines tend to have significantly fewer casualties ... when there is a mass shooting,” Fox added, noting that Virginia lacks the restriction.

Much of the 16-page report focused on the need for more training and planning among police, paramedics and municipal workers.

For example, it asked the state to fund instruction for first responders on “the emotional complexity of survivors of mass shootings.”

“Families and survivors of the Virginia Beach mass shooting reported mishandling in dealing with families and survivors,” the report stated.

The commission said the state also should consider creating a mass violence fund that guarantees medical care for victims. Local governments also should boost knowledge in how to slow blood loss. The report cited the federal training program, “You Are the Help Until Help Arrives.”

Jason Nixon, whose wife Kate was killed in the shooting, said he hoped the commission would have held city officials in Virginia Beach accountable for what he said was a toxic workplace.

“There are some good things in there that can help other families in the future,” he said. “But the whole point of the investigation was to have accountability.”

Tiffany Russell, a Virginia Beach city spokesperson, said the city was still reviewing the report. But she said it will assess the recommendations and determine what actions can implemented.

Russell noted that the city’s human resources department implemented a centralized system in January 2021 “for tracking incidents of potential workplace violence and complaint investigations.” Such as a system was not in place when the shooting occurred on May 31, 2019.