A disgruntled public utility employee opened fire with a handgun on co-workers at a municipal building in Virginia on Friday afternoon, killing 12 people and wounding at least four before he was fatally shot by police, authorities said.
The mass shooting in the coastal resort of Virginia Beach was the deadliest instance of U.S. gun violence since November 2018, when a dozen people were slain at a Los Angeles-area bar and grill by a gunman who then killed himself.
Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera said the suspect in Friday’s carnage was armed with a .45-caliber pistol equipped with a “sound suppressor” device and “extended” ammunition magazines he used to reload repeatedly during the attack.
Survivors recounted scenes of pandemonium and fear that erupted as gunshots rang out, and workers scurried frantically for cover.
“We just heard people yelling and screaming to get down,” Megan Banton, a public utilities worker, told television station WAVY-TV, recalling that she and co-workers barricaded themselves in their office.
“We put the desk up against the door because we didn’t know if they were coming in. We were just hoping that it would be over soon, and then we heard the cops yelling up the steps.”
The first victim was shot in a vehicle outside the public works and utilities building at the city municipal center before the suspect entered that building and “immediately and indiscriminately fired upon all the victims,” Cervera said.
The chief said the suspect engaged in a “long-term gun battle” with four police officers who confronted him inside, preventing the gunman from “committing more carnage in that building.”
One officer was wounded in the shootout, but his bullet-proof vest saved his life, Cervera said. Authorities said the gunman ultimately was shot by police and was declared dead at a hospital.