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Questions remain as probes dig into Virginia Beach shooting

August 27, 2019
FILE - In this June 1, 2019 file photo, a makeshift memorial rests at the edge of a police cordon in front of a municipal building that was the scene of a shooting in Virginia Beach, Va. Four Virginia Beach Shooting victims’ families say they think the municipal building where the mass shooting occurred should be demolished, but city officials have said they want to renovate it. Some of the victims’ families say they support tearing down the building where a shooter killed 13 people in May.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - In this June 1, 2019 file photo, a makeshift memorial rests at the edge of a police cordon in front of a municipal building that was the scene of a shooting in Virginia Beach, Va. Four Virginia Beach Shooting victims’ families say they think the municipal building where the mass shooting occurred should be demolished, but city officials have said they want to renovate it. Some of the victims’ families say they support tearing down the building where a shooter killed 13 people in May.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A firm conducting an independent probe into Virginia Beach’s mass shooting said Tuesday that it’s reviewed more than 300,000 emails, thousands of documents and 10 hours of camera footage and 911 calls.

But the firm’s CEO said it’s not ready to release details from its investigation into why a city engineer submitted his resignation before fatally shooting 12 people in a municipal building.

Arnette Heintze, the CEO of security firm Hillard Heintze, told Virginia Beach’s City Council that he hopes to have a report finished in mid-October.

The update comes nearly three months after the May 31 massacre and amid longstanding questions from victims’ families and community activists who say they’re no closer to understanding what happened. Virginia Beach’s police department is conducting its own ongoing investigation.

“We feel very dishonored ... and disrespected,” Sonja Snelling told Heintze after the meeting, her voice full of emotion.

Her husband, Herbert “Bert” Snelling , was a contractor seeking a permit in the city building when he was killed.

Snelling said the family feels “pushed aside” and particularly in the dark because her husband was the only victim who didn’t work for the city. They’re not plugged into the network of city employees who may have more information.

“We’re just standing by, trying to wait,” she said. “Bert was one of the 12. And we’re his family.”

Almost immediately after the tragedy, demands began for more information. Concerns were raised about the behavior of the shooter, DeWayne Craddock, before he opened fire and about the police response. And city officials pushed back against what they described as “rumors, innuendo, conflicting theories and speculation.”

The family of one victim, Kate Nixon, had said that Craddock was written up for having a poor attitude.

Before hiring the security firm, Virginia Beach City Council members had discussed the need for an independent probe to help provide information to families and to focus on broader issues like workplace violence.

Heintze, who is formerly with the U.S. Secret Service, told Virginia Beach’s City Council members Tuesday that his firm has conducted 90 interviews and is planning more. He added that there’s much more work ahead.

“Was there a toxic environment? What was the situation in this building? We’re looking at all of those matters,” he said.

Heintze told reporters that he can’t predict what his firm’s final report will say. But he said the goal is “to help the community understand why. But just as important: What can be done in the future to prevent another tragic act of violence like this?”

Minister Gary McCollum, who is with the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference, told reporters that he hopes the investigation digs deep enough into Virginia Beach’s workplace culture.

“I like what I heard today,” he said. “But we think there’s the potential that they will simply look at this as a security issue, and not a toxic workforce environment that may have contributed to what happened.”

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