Remembering the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting

Eleven of the victims were city employees, and one was a contractor, police said.

(City of Virginia Beach)

One victim worked for the Virginia Beach municipal government for 41 years. Another, for just 11 months. A third was a contractor who was filing a permit at the worst time possible. And one died checking to make sure his co-workers were safe.

Most of the 12 people killed Friday by the gunman — himself a longtime municipal employee — had the kind of job titles common for government servants. They were engineers, right of way agents, account clerks or administrative assistants.

During a news conference Saturday, Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen released the names of the 12 victims. They were identified as:

(City of Virginia Beach)

Ryan Keith Cox

an account clerk with Public Utilities for more than 12 years who lived in Virginia Beach

When the shooting began, Cox helped shepherd co-workers to safety and then went back to check on others, said account clerk Christi Dewar. “I think that’s when [the gunman] got Keith.”

She said they had started their jobs on the same day, and he always gave her a hug whenever she was annoyed about something. “He was the type of person who — you know he would lay down his life for you, and that’s exactly what he did,” Dewar said. “On Friday, he gave his life to save seven of us.”

Cox was from a devout Christian family.

His father, E. Ray Cox Sr., 78, is the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, where Keith Cox was known as the “golden voice.”

“Keith was one of my main go to lead singers!!” former music minister Kenneth Robinson wrote on Facebook, where members of the church mourned his death. So did his older brother, Ervin Ray Cox Jr.: “My heart is hurting because my baby brother was murdered today by the shooter in Virginia Beach mass shooting. I won’t hears his beautiful singing voice at church or home anymore. I loved my brother and will truly miss his caring soul. Until we meet again in heaven.”

— Laura Vozzella and Orion Donovan-Smith

(City of Virginia Beach)

Tara Welch Gallagher

an engineer with Public Works for six years who lived in Virginia Beach

Gallagher and her husband, Patrick, were building a life together. They had a son, Patrick Gallagher III, now 22 months old. And they had bought a fixer-upper in Alanton, an upscale community along the water.

“Most of our time was spent fixing the house and raising our son. It was all she lived for,” said Patrick Gallagher, an architect, choking back tears. “She was everything to me.”

— Ian Shapira

(City of Virginia Beach)

Mary Louise Gayle, 65

a right of way agent with Public Works for 24 years who lived in Virginia Beach

Gayle took great pride in her work, dealing with land appraisals and easements for new public works projects. She was preparing to fly to Portland later this month to receive a national award for her accomplishments.

Since Gayle turned 65 last month, the trip was going to double as a birthday celebration with her two children — Matthew Gayle, 37, and Sarah Leonard, 33 — and their families.

A devout Catholic who taught catechism classes for many years, Gayle was a single mother who was close to her two grandchildren, Jeffrey, 8, and Genevieve, 3.

Every winter holiday season, she made gingerbread houses for her family and friends, the sweet, spicy aroma of the baking filling the home she shared with her pug dog, Abby.

“She’d use these little almond slivers for shingles,” Matthew Gayle said. “They were really intricately done.”

She was excited about the family trip to Portland.

“We were going to wine and dine her,” her son said. “It was going to be this huge, elaborate celebration. If the shooter had just waited two weeks, she wouldn’t be there. She would be in Portland.”

— Antonio Olivo

(City of Virginia Beach)

Alexander Mikhail Gusev, 35

a right of way agent with Public Works for nine years who lived in Virginia Beach

Gusev, an immigrant from Belarus, was an avid soccer player. His friend, Alex Lambrino, said the two played soccer together every Sunday morning “for as long as I can remember.”

“I lost a good friend yesterday,” Lambrino wrote on Facebook. “I have known the guy for almost 10 years. He was a great human being full of life and joy and laughter.”

Gusev came to the United States in 2003 as a student, his longtime friend Igor Musin told the Virginian-Pilot. Gusev attended Tidewater Community College and got a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Old Dominion University.

Gusev spent the past nine years working for the city’s Public Works Department as a right of way agent and previously worked at a lumber company, according to the Pilot.

His twin brother, Aliaksei Huseu, also lives in Virginia Beach, along with their mother. On Saturday, relatives gathered at the home where Gusev lived, a townhouse on a cul-de-sac where children were riding their bicycles. The family declined to speak to a reporter.

Gusev was described as a generous and thoughtful friend. Wais Sarwari, who met Gusev through mutual friends and played sports with him, said he was a “really, really nice guy.”

“All he ever did was try to help whoever he can,” Sarwari said.

One day, after Gusev learned that Musin didn’t have a lawn mower to cut his grass, Gusev showed up with a lawn mower and cut the grass for him, without even being asked, Musin told the Pilot.

“That was incredible,” Musin said.

— Samantha Schmidt, Julie Zauzmer,
Justin Wm. Moyer, Orion Donovan-Smith

(City of Virginia Beach)

Joshua O. Hardy, 52

an engineering tech resident with Public Utilities for more than four years who lived in Virginia Beach

Hardy didn’t have children of his own, but he was close to his six nieces and nephews and knew how to make them laugh. One of his nieces, Tasha Milteer, considered him a father figure growing up. The two of them would play Nintendo together, and he kept old family videos of Milteer at 6 years old, singing along with commercial jingles and to ’N Sync’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart.”

“He was just the funny one,” Milteer, now 32, recalled. “He used to go get this baby doll head and scare us with it.”

Hardy grew up in Norfolk, in a family of six siblings, including his twin sister. The extended family would often go on vacations together, and he loved to cook for all of them — especially steamed crabs. He was an Oakland Raiders fan and was always running on the treadmill and making sure to eat healthy and stay fit. He was a devout Christian and a former deacon but was also fascinated by conspiracy theories.

Hardy worked for the city of Norfolk for about 20 years before moving to his job in Virginia Beach, Milteer said. “He loved his job.”

— Samantha Schmidt

(City of Virginia Beach)

Michelle “Missy” Langer, 60

an administrative assistant with Public Utilities for 12 years who lived in Virginia Beach

Gregarious and friendly, people were drawn to Langer, said her colleague, Kimberly Millering, who remembered her as an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Both of them had been at work when the gunfire began. After a SWAT team evacuated Millering from Building 2, her fears turned to Langer, her friend of eight years.

“I tried calling Missy,” Millering said. “I didn’t get an answer, and I got so worried.”

A friend of Langer’s neighbor reached out to Millering on Facebook to deliver the grim news: She was among those killed. Millering, 55, a geographic information analyst for the city, would later learn other colleagues, Katherine Nixon and Richard Nettleton, were also among the dead. But she was especially close to Langer.

“I will miss her smile and her hugs. That’s the hardest thing,” she said. “I don’t know how I can go into that building and know that’s where she died.”

Langer’s sister-in-law, Kim Langer, described the 60-year-old as a cheerful, fun-loving woman who loved the beach, working in her yard and watching football.

“She was always laughing, always smiling,” she said.

Langer was survived by her brother and sister.

Kim Langer said her sister-in-law’s body will be brought back to East Liverpool, Ohio, where she will be buried.

“We’re very distraught,” she said, her voice cracking. “Can’t believe it’s true. Just unbelievable. This kind of stuff has got to stop.”

— Alex Horton and Lindsey Bever

(City of Virginia Beach)

Richard H. Nettleton

an engineer with Public Utilities for 28 years who lived in Norfolk

Nettleton stayed on the job for nearly three decades simply because he enjoyed the work, said his boss, Bob Montague, the director of Virginia Beach’s Public Utilities Department.

Nettleton, a die-hard Red Sox fan, helped lead the design and construction of the city’s sewer and water pump stations, water storage tank and transmission lines and pipelines.

“Rich was just a good guy and very compassionate,” Montague said. “He cared about people. He helped and mentored young engineers.”

Nettleton and Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen had worked together before.

The two men were stationed together in Germany in the Army’s 130th Engineer Brigade. Their paths diverged after, but the former soldiers both wound up in Virginia Beach.

“You couldn’t ask for a better human being,” Dwight Farmer, who worked with Nettleton to streamline construction requirements, told the Virginian-Pilot. “It was never about him.”

— Ian Shapira and Alex Horton

(City of Virginia Beach)

Katherine A. Nixon

an engineer with Public Utilities for 10 years who lived in Virginia Beach

Nixon came from a family of civil engineers: Her late father Robert “Bobby” Lusich, her grandfather George Lusich, and two of her uncles, Jerry Lusich and Anthony Lusich — all engineers who loved their work.

Nixon, who was in her early 40s, was just as devoted to her husband, Jason, a Realtor, and her children. She had three girls, one of them just 15 months old, according to her grandmother Claudia Blodget.

Blodget, who lives in California, learned of the shooting while watching television. When the media reported that the killings took place at the Virginia Beach municipal center, Blodget reached out to relatives, who told her Kate had been shot. Later that night, she said, around 10 p.m., she learned her granddaughter had died in surgery.

“I still remember teaching her how to quilt when she was a teenager,” Blodget said. “She leaves a hole in the realm that will never be filled.”

In Virginia Beach, she performed a crucial job, said her boss, Bob Montague.

She was a senior engineer in charge of the department’s regulatory compliance. One of her jobs was to make sure the city’s restaurants did all they could to lessen the impact of fats, oils and grease on the city’s sewer system.

“All these people were such great people,” said Montague, who supervised six of those killed. “This is what makes it so difficult. They were our family.”

— Ian Shapira

(City of Virginia Beach)

Christopher Kelly Rapp

an engineer with Public Works for 11 months who lived in Powhatan

Rapp loved Scottish music.

When he wasn’t at work or with his wife, Bessie, he enjoyed putting on a kilt and playing his pipes.

Tidewater Pipes & Drums, a bagpipe band in southeastern Virginia, said on social media that Rapp had recently moved to Virginia Beach and joined the band. Bandmates described him as a quiet person who “had a passion for bagpipes and Scottish culture.”

“We are heartbroken to share the news that our bandmate, Chris Rapp, was one of the victims of Friday’s senseless shooting,” the group said Saturday morning in a Facebook post.

Jim Roberts, the band’s manager, said in a statement that Rapp had marched with the band as recently as St. Patrick’s Day.

“Chris was reserved but very friendly, quietly engaging members one-on-one after our weekly practices. Even though we didn’t have time to get to know him better, we shared a love for music that created an immediate bond. More importantly, he showed up and worked hard, which is all you can ask for in a group of amateur musicians,” Roberts said.

The band is planning to play at his funeral, Roberts said, and “will do whatever else we can to support his family at this difficult time.”

— Lindsey Bever

(City of Virginia Beach)

Herbert “Bert” Snelling, 57

a contractor who was filing a permit when the shooting happened and who lived in Virginia Beach

On LinkedIn, Snelling said he owned Standing Firm Builders Inc. He also worked as a project manager at Golden Heritage Homes.

“From a small handyman repair to clearing a lot and constructing a home,” Snelling wrote, “I will personally attend to all ongoing jobs to ensure a job done with excellence.”

On Friday, the contractor was the first person the gunman shot, one law enforcement official told The Washington Post. Snelling was sitting in his car at the time.

The 57-year-old father led the Crosswalk Church’s security team and roamed its halls to protect fellow congregants, Mariana Rocha told the Virginian Pilot.

Snelling was the only victim in Friday’s shooting who was not a city employee.

Rocha was among hundreds to attend a Saturday vigil for the victims, where she remembered Snelling, “the sweetest, sweetest man” who just last week celebrated a wedding anniversary.

Snelling kept an eye on others outside his church. Alton Hill, his neighbor of 14 years, said Snelling would let him know if a shingle tore off the roof during a storm and was quick to offer help.

“He was just always there,” Hill said.

— Alex Horton

(City of Virginia Beach)

Laquita C. Brown

a right of way agent with Public Works for more than four years who lived in Chesapeake

(City of Virginia Beach)

Robert “Bobby” Williams

a special projects coordinator with Public Utilities for 41 years who lived in Chesapeake

Orion Donovan-Smith

Orion Donovan-Smith is a graduate student at American University and contributor to The Washington Post. Before turning to journalism, he worked on international development programs in Central Africa.

Lindsey Bever

Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post, covering national news with an emphasis on health. She was previously a reporter at the Dallas Morning News.

Ian Shapira

Ian Shapira is a features writer on the local enterprise team and enjoys writing about people who have served in the military and intelligence communities. He has covered education, criminal justice, technology and art crime.

Alex Horton

Alex Horton is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. He previously covered the military and national security for Stars and Stripes, and served in Iraq as an Army infantryman.


Originally published June 1, 2019.