June 2019 - Mass Shooting News

Teen shot while riding bike in Allentown, cops say


A teenager was shot early Sunday while riding a bike in downtown Allentown.

Allentown Assistant Police Chief Stephen Vangelo said the shooting happened sometime between 1 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the vicinity of 5th and Linden streets. Vangelo stated the teenager, who was not identified, initially thought he heard fireworks, but then realized he was struck in his arm by a bullet.

The teen took himself to an area hospital for treatment of what Vangelo described as non-life-threatening injuries.

Sunday’s shooting brings the total to 15 shooting victims since June 10 in the city. So far, none of the shootings have been fatal.

The worst of the shootings happened early June 20 outside Deja Vu nightclub in the 300 block of Hamilton Street. Three gunman, authorities said, opened fire at 10 people, marking one of the Lehigh Valley’s biggest mass shootings in history.

At least one person was the target of the gunfire, but authorities did not identify the person. Prosecutors previously said based on information gathered, while not confirmed, it is more likely the mass shooting has a connection to “gang violence.”

There have been no arrests in the Deja Vu case. However, an alleged getaway driver has been jailed. Jose Castell, 33, of Allentown was charged this past week in a separate, unrelated shooting of a 36-year-old man near Fifth and James streets in the city.

Those with information about Sunday’s shooting are asked to call Allentown police at 610-437-7721.

Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at pholzmann@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow her on Twitter @pamholzmann. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.



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Independent reviews are common after mass shootings. Virginia Beach may soon approve its own.


VIRGINIA BEACH

A month ago, Jason Nixon lost his wife, Kate, in the city’s deadliest mass shooting.

Debbie Borato lost her only sister, Missy Langer.

Cassandra “DD” Hardy and Denise Smallwood lost their brother, Josh Hardy.

All of them simply want to know why. They want answers.

They feel as if they can’t grieve fully until they learn more about the city employee who shot 16 people — 12 fatally — inside an office building at the Municipal Center on May 31.

That’s why they’re putting pressure on the city to release every record on the shooter’s employment history. They have asked for an independent investigator to evaluate everything that led up to that day. They want to know how police responded to the event.

The city manager — and later the council — initially told them to wait for police to finish their criminal investigation amid concerns that another analysis would impede their work.

But after pressure mounted, council members decided to change course.

On Tuesday, the City Council plans to authorize an independent investigation into the shooting. The focus will be to piece together a timeline of the events and review the gunman’s employment history and his workplace interactions. Facility security, prevention of workplace violence, employee alerts and response to active shooter notifications also will be scrutinized.

Virginia Beach will pay for the study and task City Auditor Lyndon Remias with selecting the firm that will do the review; the work would be bid out. That process could take more than a month, Vice Mayor Jim Wood said.

The police chief indicated that he expects interviews to wrap up by Aug. 15, Wood said. So the council has agreed the independent review should start then.

“I understand the urgency people want and will do all in my power to ensure the process is as quick as can be,” Remias said, adding that he would pick a capable firm for the job.

Independent reviews are not always conducted after mass shootings, but they are common and often provide sweeping recommendations to improve safety, according to an analysis by The Virginian-Pilot.

Of the 17 mass shootings that resulted in at least 10 deaths since Columbine High School in 1999, all but four saw a third-party review of the tragedies, according to analysis of data from Mother Jones and news coverage.

These investigations, which are separate from the main criminal probe, look different in almost each case. Some are conducted by appointed panels while others are done by private companies or other government agencies.

But the main thrust typically stays the same: to provide clarity on what transpired, identify problems with the response and to recommend best practices for future events.

Virginia Beach’s review of the May 31 tragedy in Building 2 of the Municipal Center would be no different.

Other reviews

The family of Kate Nixon was the first to put pressure on Virginia Beach to allow for an external investigation. Jason Nixon has said his wife had been scared to go to work the day she died. The night before, she had told him she feared an employee who was not the gunman.

Jason Nixon encouraged his wife to take a gun with her for protection, but she declined because it was against city policy.

The next day, DeWayne Craddock, a public utilities employee, shot 16 people with a .45-caliber handgun equipped with a legally purchased silencer before police killed him after a shootout.

Three days after the shooting, Kevin Martingayle, an attorney representing the Nixon family, urged the city to release the gunman’s full employment records and any materials expressing concerns about him. The city has declined to do so.

Martingayle then asked the city to pick a law firm to investigate the incident. He said a similar review into the 2017 Charlottesville riots should be used as a model because it took place at the same time as the police’s probe. The families of Langer and Hardy have also called for a review.

The law firm of Hunton Andrews Kurth, previously called Hunton & Williams, led the independent investigation into the August 2017 riots that erupted during a white nationalist rally surrounding the removal of two Confederate statues.

Clashes between “alt-right” and counter protesters resulted in injuries and the death of one woman who was struck by a car when a white supremacist drove through a crowd. The driver, James A. Fields Jr., was sentenced Friday to life in prison after pleading guilty to 29 federal hate crimes.

The review concluded that the Charlottesville Police Department took too long to intervene when the two sides clashed and failed to protect public safety by being unprepared. 

Virginia Beach’s initial reluctance for an outside review stands in sharp contrast to the response after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

On April 16, 2007, a senior opened fire on his classmates, killing 32 students and faculty and wounding 17 more. The gunman killed himself, and to this day, it remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Three days later, amid widespread criticism that officials delayed crucial time in alerting the campus about the shooting, then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine appointed an eight-person panel to review the incident, independent from the state’s own efforts.

“In the days immediately after the shooting, I knew it was critical to seek answers to the many questions that would arise from the tragedy,” wrote Kaine, now a U.S. senator, in the report’s foreword. “I also felt that the questions should be addressed by people who possessed both the expertise and autonomy necessary to do the comprehensive review.”

In an interview, the chair of the panel, Col. Gerald Massengill, laid out how the Virginia Tech review was able to coexist with an ongoing investigation by local law enforcement.

Virginia Tech Review Panel Chairman Gerald Massengill, right, gestures during opening remarks at the panel’s first meeting. (Steve Helber/The Virginian-Pilot )

“It’s challenging, but it can be done and not interfere with the criminal investigation,” he said.

Massengill, a retired Virginia State Police superintendent, said it is important to have a clear scope for what the group is going to examine.

The Virginia Tech panel itself conducted more than 200 interviews, but Massengill knew they couldn’t talk to some witnesses before police did. He said he coordinated with officials to make sure a witness wouldn’t be spoiled by an interview with the panel. Sometimes, they were briefed on documents they couldn’t access directly.

At times, the process was like walking a tightrope, he explained. They had to get answers but couldn’t push too far. They wanted to lay out recommendations but not point fingers. And the group wanted to be transparent — it held four public meetings — but members had to be careful about what they said.

The panel released a 260-page report four months after the shooting. It laid out 72 recommendations, ranging from how officials could improve in a time of crisis to detailing major administrative or procedural failings leading up to the event. The panel’s work essentially changed how university campuses are alerted about an active shooter.

“These findings led to significant changes in campus safety protocol, mental health policy, gun background check laws, and best practices in education,” wrote Katie Stuntz, press secretary for Kaine.

Massengill wouldn’t comment on what Virginia Beach should do but said he thinks some kind of review should take place in most of those situations.

“These families, they are looking for some answers,” he said. “They deserve some answers.”

In Parkland, Florida, a state-appointed commission held public meetings and provided detailed information in a report about what happened in the aftermath of the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed. This took place even as the gunman awaits trial.

With approval from the Florida legislature and governor, an external review began within a couple of months after the shooting. A 16-member commission, all state political appointees, delivered a thorough, 458-page report in January.

The report concluded law enforcement lacked proper training and ran into communication failures. The state commission recommended the sheriff’s office look into why seven deputies did not engage the shooter. Since then, four deputies have been fired, including the school resource officer who stood outside the school while gunfire erupted.

He has been charged with seven counts of felony child neglect for failing to protect students.

No answers

In sharp contrast to the wealth of information released after Parkland and Virginia Tech sits Santa Fe, a Texas city roughly 30 miles south of Houston.

In May 2018, a 17-year-old student opened fire in a high school named after the town, killing 10 people and injuring 13. 

No independent review has been established.

Family members there said that’s prevented them from moving on because they know little about what transpired. In a vacuum of information, survivors’ grief has stayed fresh as they continue to seek basic answers more than a year after the tragedy. 

Such is the case with Rosie Stone, whose 17-year-old son, Chris, was killed in the shooting.

A photograph, taken six days before the Santa Fe school shooting, showing Rosie Stone with her son Chris before he went to his junior prom. 

Courtesy of Rosie Stone

“We’re already going through so much, we shouldn’t have to go through life with that question of ‘What really happened?'” she said over the phone Wednesday. “We need that to move forward, to grieve.”

Repeating a complaint she’s voiced since the shooting, Stone says she can tell people everything about her son’s birth but nothing about how he left the world. She described that as torture. Stone said she still can’t access basic information like her son’s autopsy report. In the Santa Fe case, the shooter survived and a trial is pending.

The little information she was able to gather is based on speculation or comes from other students, she said. 

Chris was killed in the art classroom, six days after his junior prom, she said. He held a door shut to prevent the shooter from entering. And she believes the gunman shot through that door, with two bullets killing her son.

“In his sacrifice, he actually saved six people in that room. My boy did good,” Stone said, starting to cry. “I just wish he would’ve had a little more time to come home.”

In a push to change the procedures following a mass shooting, she’s traveled to Austin, the state’s capital, and Washington, D.C., arguing for automatic third-party reviews of such incidents. After hearing of the ongoing debate in Virginia Beach, she urged city leaders to quickly approve an independent probe.

“It needs to be done immediately. If the shooting is done today, the investigation needs to start tomorrow,” Stone said. “There is no reason to delay. The details will start to blur.”

In Santa Fe — and now Virginia Beach — she wonders how officials can make educated safety improvements if they don’t have a well-vetted outside review.

“How can we fix something when we don’t even have the information about what was broken?”



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ICYMI: LGBTQ historians, gun petition, independent mass shooting probe and more


With dozens of headlines every week, it’s easy to miss some here and there.

Get in on the conversation. Here are this week’s most-read stories.

A long way to go

A local LGBTQ historian says that while the community has come a long way, there is still a very long way to go. READ MORE.

LGBTQ historian: ‘We have come a long way, there is still a very long way to go’

Calls for an independent probe

Calls for an independent investigation have been mounting on city officials with the latest coming from State Dels. Cheryl Turpin D-85, and Kelly Fowler D- 21 in a letter to all council members. READ MORE.

Pressure mounting: City Council gears toward possible independent probe on the May 31 mass shooting

Gun petition

A human resource policy prohibits city employees to carry firearms to work, but on May 31, a nine-year city employee opened fire inside of Municipal Center Building 2 after sending a resignation email to his supervisor. READ MORE.

VB Public Works employee revisits safety petition from 2016 to find mass shooting victim supported it

Let’s talk mental health

The public has questioned whether the mass shooter showed signs before the attack, but city officials have rebutted those suspicions saying in recent statements, he was a “satisfactory” worker. READ MORE.

Virginia Beach City Council includes mental health in their gun violence discussion

Bringing character to the ViBe

A new building intends to bring quality and character to the ViBe. READ MORE.

New building intends to bring quality and character to the ViBe. Here’s how

Always be informed. Get the latest news and information delivered to your inbox



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Allentown police: Shooting wounds one man


The man, whose name was not released, was shot once in the torso and his injury is not life-threatening, said Assistant Chief Stephen Vangelo. The shooting occurred about 11:50 p.m. in the 600 block of Park Street, which is near Seventh and Allen streets in Center City.



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Inside a simulated school shooting: Training exercise in N.J. tests the tremendous coordination needed to save lives. (PHOTOS)


9:45 a.m.: Phillipsburg High School

A simulated active-shooter exercise tested the coordination of police, fire and emergency services during a massive drill at Phillipsburg High School on June 29, 2019. (Michael DuFour @SkyHorseTech)

9:45 a.m.: Phillipsburg High School

The dispatch crackles over the radio. It’s the call no one wants to hear.

Active shooter at Phillipsburg High School.

Police respond quickly, the first trio of officers entering the Warren County school minutes later – midmorning on a Saturday. Security camera feeds show them quickly moving down the hall, checking doors, their blue handguns drawn and ready.

Another screen shows a schematic of the building overlaying a satellite image. Points on the map show more officers arriving and mark where they are taking positions.

Another team enters the high school. The security feeds show something else now: They’re being followed by a man in a yellow vest. He’s carrying a camera. The police ignore him.

They arrive in the cafeteria. There are several bodies on the floor. One of them is the shooter. A blue rifle is at her side. She has taken her own life. 

“Shooter down in the cafeteria,” an officer radios. With the threat confirmed neutralized, attention quickly turns to the wounded. Some are already dead. Others may have only minutes left.

The training has begun. 

8 a.m.: Phillipsburg Middle School

A training weapon is holstered before the briefing in the Phillipsburg Middle School gym. (Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com)

8 a.m.: Phillipsburg Middle School

There is a line outside the Phillipsburg Middle School gym. Police and medical personnel are getting checked with a metal-detector wand as they enter.

Inside, they check in and find their groups to prepare for the test soon to come. 

Today is an exercise to analyze the local and county response to a mass shooting. Police, fire and EMS from around the Phillipsburg area and beyond will be analyzed as they grabble with an unfolding – but, fortunately, fake – gunman at the high school just a few minutes’ drive away. They will have to identify, treat and transport patients to the local hospitals, all while being watched by experts from the county, along with the state and federal Homeland Security offices.

Off to the left of the entrance, police are issued blue rubber handguns – training weapons – that they immediately holster. Two blue assault rifles are on the table next to the case.

Medical gear is arranged and examined at the middle school gym. (Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com)

In another section, triage teams check and re-check their red medical packs. They come with vests, helmets and personal kits – for the responders who go into potentially dangerous situations – as well as different colors of tape to mark the severity of victim’s injuries. Red is serious, yellow is moderate and green is relatively minor.

The most essential tools, Blairstown EMS Lt. John Browning privately explains, are bandages and tourniquets to stop the bleeding, and space blankets to keep victims warm and prevent shock from setting in.

The briefing for police, fire and EMS is to begin soon. They already know what’s coming. They need to be ready for the call.

9 a.m.: the moulage room

Mock wounds are applied in the moulage room. (Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com)

9 a.m.: the moulage room

The line of “patients” outside the nurse’s office extends out the door. They all look healthy going in, many of them severely less so coming out. A piece of paper is taped over the window: “Moulage room.”

Moulage refers to the application of mock injuries typically for emergency training. Professionals peel the gunshot wounds from paper and apply them to arms, legs, chests and foreheads. Extra makeup is applied to make the injuries appear, disturbingly, more realistic.

A volunteer “victim” with a fake arm injury checks his phone. (Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com)

It’s a bizarre scene. People who look like they’ve already died are sitting there checking their phones with ashen faces or holding conversations with “blood” drying on their extremities.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to get involved, do something with the community,” says 15-year-old Cole Updike, who is among a trio of Warren Tech students volunteering as victims for the training exercise.



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AR-15 creates not a hole but a ‘cavity’ in body, St. Luke’s surgeon says of rifle’s devastating power


The damage from a high-energy rifle is more serious and extensive than from a handgun, said Dr. Richard Sharpe, a trauma surgeon and former U.S. Navy doctor who served for more than two decades and was involved in combat operations. Treating such wounds requires the expertise and resources of a trauma center, where staff can triage quickly, draw from blood banks, stabilize patients, map out the bullet path and send people to surgery, he said.



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New Details Released After 5 Shot At Massive Hamden House Party


HAMDEN, CT — The suspect in Friday night’s mass shooting at a Choate Avenue home which left five people injured remains at-large as of Saturday afternoon, Hamden Police Capt. Ronald Smith said.

“Hamden Police are currently canvassing the Choate Avenue neighborhood in an attempt to locate additional evidence relating to last night’s shooting,” Smith said in a Saturday update. “Members of the Hamden Police Department Detective Division and K-9 Unit are participating in the search. As of now, we are aware of 5 gunshot victims. Detectives are attempting to ascertain if there are any other victims.”

The victims include:

An 18 year-old New Haven resident. She suffered a gunshot wound in the area of her right flank. A 19 year-old Bridgeport resident. She suffered a gunshot wound to her buttocks. A 20 year-old New Haven resident. He suffered a gunshot wound to his arm. A 21 year-old Hamden resident. She suffered a gunshot wound to her foot. A 23 year-old New Haven resident. He suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh.

The status of their injuries is unknown at this time. Prior to last night’s shooting, at 7:20 p.m., Hamden Police responded to an Exeter Road home regarding a trespassing complaint. The homeowner advised police that several people were walking on her front lawn, police said.

An officer saw numerous motor vehicles parked in the area. Furthermore, he observed “a large party at 937 Choate Avenue,” Smith said. The officer determined that although there were a large number of guests, “the music was not unreasonably loud,” police said.

The officer said that the homeowner and guests were cooperative, police added. The officer told the homeowner to ask the guests to leave by 10 p.m. The homeowner agreed, stating that he would have the guests leave by 9 p.m. While police were on scene the shooting broke out, police said.

More than 500 people were present at the house party. According to a flyer promoting the house party, there was going to be DJ, pool party and $5 cover fee but ladies who wore “thong bikinis” would get in for free.

Mayor Curt Balzano Leng has announced that he will hold a 3 p.m. press conference with Acting Police Chief Cappiello in regards to the shooting incident. The conference will be held inside the Hamden Police Department HQ (2900 Dixwell Avenue, Hamden).

ORIGINAL STORY FROM FRIDAY NIGHT: HAMDEN, CT — At least five people were shot while attending a massive house party on Choate Avenue and the suspect remains at-large, Hamden Police said late Friday night. Capt. Ronald Smith said police were initially called by neighbors around 8:45 p.m. to help disperse a crowd of about 500 people that attended the house party Friday night. Police were responding to reports of drunken behavior including people passed out on lawns.

Once three or four Hamden police officers arrived, the suspect fired off several shots and there are at “least five victims,” Smith said.

Four people were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, while another person was driven to a hospital by a personal friend, police said. Police did not know the extent of the injuries suffered by the victims.

The suspect is described as a light-skinned black male in his early 20s with a thin build, “pock-marked face,” a small amount of hair on chin, wearing a black hat (backwards), T-shirt and blue jeans, according to Smith.

At the time of the shooting there were several Hamden Police officers present but Smith said no officers were shot at by the suspect. Cheshire, North Haven and State Police departments all assisted at the scene.

Smith said police are unsure of a motive for the shooting as of late Friday night. He stressed that the owners of the house where the party was held have been very cooperative.

According to a flyer promoting the house party, there was going to be DJ, pool party and $5 cover fee but ladies who wore “thong bikinis” would get in for free.

News of the mass shooting surfaced around 9 p.m. when Mayor Curt Balzano Leng issued an alert advising residents stay in their homes in this neighborhood and surrounding area. Complicating matters was the fact that thousands of residents had gathered in the center of town for the annual 4th of July fireworks display.

In an update around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, Leng and Acting Police Chief John Cappiello are asking “all residents and anyone who might have witnessed the shooting this evening, heard anything about the issues surrounding it, have photos, names or video of the incident or information on the identity of the shooter and any other related information regarding to the shooting” on Choate Avenue, to call the Hamden Police immediately at their main desk number of 203-230-4000. Any information, large or small is appreciated. As always, in any emergency dial 911.

“The Hamden Fire and Police Departments responded swiftly to the incident, where multiple victims were injured by gunfire,” according to a post on the town’s Facebook page. “Initially there was a shelter in place ordered by Town officials for residents’ safety. The Hamden Police Department lifted the shelter in place order for residents in the West Woods neighborhood surrounding the shooting incident following their efforts surrounding the incident, and with the great cooperation of Police backup assistance swiftly sent in from North Haven, New Haven, Cheshire Police Departments, as well as the CT State Police.

“The Hamden Police Department remains on scene, and has contained the situation swiftly. Hamden PD are currently investigating the crime scene. The Town and Police Department are asking everyone to remain aware of ongoing emergency operations, crime scene collection and investigation occurring on Choate Avenue now and for the hours and possibly days ahead. The road remains closed as the crime scene is actively worked on.”

In an update, Hamden Fire Chief Gary Merwede said: “In accordance with our emergency operations plan during large events (Fireworks) we were able to shift resources to respond with medical personnel to the Choate Ave scene. The initial HFD response arrived on scene within 4 minutes and began treatment. Additional units arrived to treat 4 people with GSWs (gunshot wounds), and advanced life support was delivered on scene for the most critical patients.”

This story will be updated when more information is available.



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Parkland Victim


The parents of one of the victims of the Parkland mass shooting are suing the United States, alleging that the FBI failed to prevent the deadly attack, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.

Philip and April Schentrup, the parents of 16-year-old Carmen Schentrup, allege that the FBI received sufficient warnings about the confessed shooter, including one that was reportedly received just 40 days before the shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The lawsuit goes on to say that the FBI “failed to take any action whatsoever with the information it received,” resulting in the death of Carmen Schentrup and 16 others on Feb. 14, 2018.

The suit also shows several screenshots of the confessed shooter’s social media accounts and claims he had been posting “disturbing and threatening content” of himself for more than two years before the shooting, including pictures of himself holding weapons and comments he made online professing his intention to become a school shooter.

Parents of Parkland Victim Sue FBI

The suit, filed in Miami, names the United States of America as the defendant.

The Schentrups are seeking all wrongful death damages for their losses, including lost support and services, mental pain and suffering, any medical and funeral expenses, and more, the lawsuit says.



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Virginia Beach shooting survivor arrested after telling boss he didn’t want to work in Building 2


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – It’s been one month since the mass shooting inside Building 2 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. One of the employees there that day spent a night behind bars this week for allegedly disturbing the peace after he refused to return to the building.

“It’s a nightmare,” said John McIvor.

That nightmare for Jon McIvor began May 31.  He was in Building 2 when a gunman killed 12 of his co-workers. 

“I can’t believe somebody would do something like that,” McIvor added.

McIvor works in the IT department.  For the past month he has been in Building 17.  This week he was told he was going back to Building 2.

“People lost their lives in there and right now I wasn’t ready to get back in there and work,” McIvor said.

Tuesday, he met with a supervisor about having to go back to Building 2. According to court records, McIvor became agitated and angry.  He then began yelling and stormed out of the office.

“I don’t want to be coerced to go back in there,” McIvor said.  “I wanted to talk with HR and see what my options were.”

HR told McIvor they would find another position for him so he didn’t have to return to Building 2.  Wednesday at work, police showed up and arrested him.  His supervisor Darrell Riddick went to the magistrate and took out a warrant against McIvor for disturbing the peace.  He ended up spending 24 hours in jail.

“I just want to clear my name and get back to work,” he said.

City officials said they can’t talk about personnel matters.  Riddick told WAVY News 10’s Jason Marks to talk with the city and not to call him again.  McIvor’s attorney thinks these charges are crazy.

“The allegation is that he was agitated, that he was annoyed and that he raised his voice,” said attorney Taite Westerndorf.  “Those things may be true, but they are not criminal.  It’s not criminal to raise your voice and it is not criminal to be agitated.  I think under the circumstances it is understandable that he would feel that way.”

No one was ever threatened. 

“When I read the criminal complaint I was outraged not only as an attorney, but as a member of the community to see this is how we are treating the survivors of the tragedy,” Westerndorf added.

McIvor said he simply doesn’t want to go back into Building 2.

“I can’t believe they would ask anyone to go back in there at this point,” McIvor said.

McIvor is scheduled to be back in court in July.  He just wants the charges to be dismissed.

10 On Your Side talked with Mayor Bobby Dyer and he repeated that employees who were in Building 2 on May 31 will not be forced to go back to work inside that building.

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Exclusive: Hero Killed in Virginia Beach Mass Shooting Memorialized by Father


Publisher Brenda H. Andrews interviews Pastor E. Ray Cox (Photo by Ernest Lowery)

By Brenda H. Andrews, Publisher, New Journal and Guide

“Did you get two or three sermons today?” Mrs. Maxine Cox asked me at the front door as I was preparing to leave. I had just completed a 90-minute one-on-one interview with her husband of 53 and a half years and was meeting her for the first time.

“At least three,” I responded. We all laughed. She knew her husband well.

Above all else, Rev. Dr. E. Ray Cox is God’s man; a man who has been preaching God’s Word for more than half a century; a man who at age eight would awaken and walk the floor of his home at night, preaching, until his mother gently directed him back to his bed.

Of all the many sermons this Pastor has preached in those years, on June 8 he preached perhaps his most demanding—the eulogy of his 50-year-old son, Ryan Keith Cox, killed by a colleague gone mad in a rampage on May 31 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center where they both worked.

Ryan Keith Cox, along with 10 other innocent persons, went to work that fateful Friday morning and never came home. An 11th person who was at the Center’s Building 2 workplace had come near the close of the work week to secure a permit. For a little more than 30 minutes, the facility was under the madness of gunfire. Twelve were killed by the assailant. The assailant was killed by police. It was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting for 2019 and the 10th mass shooting in the first five months of this year.

The carnage could have been higher. Four other persons were seriously injured and have since begun the road to full recovery.

Several of those who were not physically injured give credit to the heroic actions of their colleague Ryan Keith Cox, who secured a place of safety from the carnage for them, before returning to the war zone to save others. He didn’t make it back.

“I don’t know if you can put this in terms of what you would normally expect, but I’ve had no grief,” said Pastor Cox about delivering his son’s eulogy.

Cox said he considered calling upon a long-time minister friend to “shoulder this responsibility with me,” but he changed his mind.

“I am a pastor of 56 years. People grieve based on (the deceased person’s) relationship with God,” he explained. “How close and rich that relationship was with (God) is how they view (death) as a loss (or a gain).”

Cox said he knew Keith, as he was called, had transitioned into his reward of eternal rest because of the earthly relationship with God he had maintained.

“You will deliver your son’s eulogy,” Pastor Cox said God told him. “You will tell them ‘to God be the Glory’.”

That decision came as Pastor Cox came to grips with his own humanity in understanding the tragic loss of his son of 50 years. He talked about the private viewing of his son’s organless body split open from the neck down to his stomach as a result of the autopsy; the dried blood puddle at the base of his back; and the bullet hole in his neck which preceded his death. He wanted to see the condition of his son before he would allow the mortician to clean Keith and prepare him for public viewing.

After contacting the FBI, Pastor Cox said he learned that four bullets had entered the body of Keith Cox on May 31. Apparently, the final one which entered in the back of the neck had ripped open the throat and was the fatal one.

The first bullet pierced both hands in the same spot, leaving holes that matched hand to hand. Two more entered both sides of the upper back before the fatal bullet was shot that brought death within 10-15 seconds.

Viewing his son’s empty body became another test of the Pastor’s Christian faith.

Ryan Keith Cox (Photo: Courtesy)

“I felt anger rising up in me,” Cox said. “Anger like I’ve never felt. But all of a sudden, I heard the voice of God telling me, ‘I have given you the privilege to be angry, but you don’t have permission to sin’.”

He explained the Bible instructs people of God that to feel anger is not a sin, but hoarding anger and hatred are not only sins but are self-defeating.

“I listen to God,” Cox said. “I walk, I talk with God. I live the gospel…I teach and enrich others.

“Don’t be angry,” God said to this Pastor-Man. “Let it pass. This, too, will pass.”

Forgiveness

Pastor Cox said he was asked, ‘Can you forgive the man who killed your son’?

“…I’ve already done it,” he responded. “This man didn’t kill my son. He was an actor under the influence of the prince of the air — Satan himself.

“That evil in this man is what motivated him. Something in his life prompted him. He was under the influence of the spirit of evil that was probably motivated by the pain in his life.”

What Cox doesn’t understand, he said, is the common thread that typifies all mass shooters: “Why do they feel they can exercise (their) anger, frustration on people who have nothing to do with (their) pain?”

Nevertheless, he hopes that before the gunman died, he got “the record straight with himself and his God.”

Cox said he and his wife want to get with the gunman’s family, but their identity has not been disclosed.

“We know nothing about them. But I know they must be suffering. His parents must be totally whacked out. Nobody wants this.”

Peace

Throughout the interview, Pastor Cox stayed close to his Christian witness. He said that is what has brought him peace despite the horrific event that snuffed out the life of his youngest son and others, including the gunman.

“If you want to know peace, go find the Prince,” he explained.

“You cannot find peace if you’ve never met the Prince of Peace. If you’ve never established a relationship with Jesus.”

“I’m at peace—no grief—because years ago I met the Prince of Peace.”

He continued, “Peace is not to be found; peace is to be experienced. Peace is not lost; it is not hid away.”

Cox said he gains strength in knowing Keith Cox left the world in a better place than it was.

“I raised him and his older brother that way,” the Father-Pastor said.

Gun Control

I asked Pastor Cox, what can the church do to address the way of the world that is producing such broken people who commit mass crimes?

“This is not an ecclesiastical matter,” he said. “This is a legalistic matter.”

“Spirit-filled people have their place and their assignment—and their place is open for powerful input.”

“However,” he continued, “If this problem is to be solved, or at least have a real dent, it will have to be by law.”

Pastor Cox said though people who would do evil are not afraid of violating laws, and continue to misbehave despite laws in place, still, we live in a nation of laws.

He believes strongly, he said, in gun control laws. “We have everything we need. It’s our representatives who won’t act.”

He prophesied, “This will not be the last time.”

Coming Full Circle

“There is a depth of sorrow when the reproduction of yourself is shot down. Everything in your heart has been taken out.

“And yet, (do) you know how serious and important forgiveness is?” Pastor Cox asked me.

“Jesus said, ‘except you forgive, I will not forgive you’.”

He continued, “To live as Christ is to say, ‘it is well with my soul’.”

 



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