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Virginia Beach mass shooter reveals little in resignation note sent day of massacre

Elaine West-Watson, left, is comforted as she visits a memorial near the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Monday where 12 were killed Friday.
Elaine West-Watson, left, is comforted as she visits a memorial near the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Monday where 12 were killed Friday. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

VIRGINIA BEACH — DeWayne Craddock submitted a short and courteous resignation letter Friday, telling a Virginia Beach official it had been a “pleasure” to work for the city. Hours later, he fatally shot 12 people, almost all of whom were colleagues.

The striking disconnect in the email released Monday by Virginia Beach officials deepened the mystery around what prompted the nation’s worst mass shooting this year. Investigators continue to probe Craddock’s personal and professional life, looking for a motive.

“I want to officially put in my (2) weeks’ notice to vacant my position of Engineer III with the City of Virginia Beach,” Craddock wrote. “It has been a pleasure to serve the City, but due to personal reasons I must relieve my position.”

The city redacted the receiver’s name. The receiver wrote back, saying he or she hoped Craddock could resolve the issues and asked whether June 14 would be his last day. Craddock replied that it would. The personal issues Craddock mentioned went unexplained.

City officials also redacted the time the email was sent but said at a previous news conference that it was Friday morning. Just after 4 p.m. that day, Craddock used two .45-caliber pistols to open fire in the municipal building where he worked. He died after a gun battle with police.

City spokeswoman Julie Hill said the city released the letter because it “wanted to dispel any insinuation that there was something substantive in his two-week notice that would have shed light on what he did next.”

Read the resignation letter here

Craddock, 40, was a longtime engineer with the city’s Department of Public Utilities, where he oversaw water and sewer projects. City officials have said Craddock had not been fired and they have not uncovered evidence of workplace problems.

“To my knowledge, the perpetrator’s performance was satisfactory,” City Manager Dave Hansen said at a Sunday news conference, adding that Craddock “was in good standing within his department. . . . There were no issues of discipline ongoing.”

Some of Craddock’s relatives offered their first comments on the shooting on Monday, providing fresh details about his background.

Roger Hamilton, an uncle of Craddock who lives in North Carolina, said his nephew has long been estranged from one half of the family. Hamilton said his brother, Winfred Hamilton, had been married to a woman named Vestere Hamilton. Their only son together was Craddock. They lived for a while in North Carolina, but the couple divorced when Craddock was about 10, and he moved with his mother to Virginia. She later married James Craddock.

Roger Hamilton said he learned that his nephew was the gunman on Saturday morning when his sister called him. She had gotten word from Craddock’s half sister, who had been contacted by law enforcement.

“There’s nothing else but shock,” Roger Hamilton said. “You hear about this, but you don’t think it’s going to happen in your family or to someone you know.”

Agata Craddock, the shooter’s ex-wife, declined to comment Monday.

“I am still trying to process all this,” she said. “I was put in this position. I am not ready for this yet. I am not ready for this. I want to respect the people who died. I am cooperating with police and FBI, and those are the people who I will talk to.”

Court records show Craddock married his wife on Valentine’s Day 2008 in Virginia Beach. The two separated on Sept. 6, 2016, and divorced in August 2017, citing “certain differences,” according to court records. The divorce was uncontested, and as part of it, DeWayne Craddock paid a lump sum of $25,000, court records show.

C. Scott Acey, a partner at engineering company MSA, said Craddock worked there as a civil engineer from 2003 until 2008.

Acey, who had been the younger man’s direct supervisor for much of the time, described Craddock as an “ordinary” employee who came to work on time and never had any disciplinary issues.

“He was a quiet employee, and he didn’t socialize a whole lot outside of the office,” Acey recalled, although he did remember Craddock once mentioning that he had gotten engaged.

He was eventually laid off because of the 2008 recession.

Three days after the shooting, a somber Monday played out at the city’s sprawling municipal complex, where some employees returned to work for the first time since the rampage unfolded in the three-story, brick Building 2.

Many workers wore blue as they had been urged to do to show solidarity. Some murmured about what a beautiful day it was and remembered those who were killed. Others didn’t speak but just put an arm around a colleague. Flags were at half-staff.

Alveta Green, who works in the complex, said no one can truly understand a mass shooting “until you have experienced it.”

“It makes it so surreal,” she said.

Remembering the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting

Staff in Building 6 gathered Monday on the lawn outside with black memorial ribbons pinned to their blue shirts and dresses. During a performance of the national anthem, a Christian prayer, a speech by the superintendent and 12 moments of silence, well over 100 returning workers silently embraced one another and clasped hands while they cried.

Authorities identified those killed as Virginia Beach residents Michelle “Missy” Langer, Ryan Keith Cox, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Joshua O. Hardy and Herbert “Bert” Snelling; Chesapeake residents Laquita C. Brown and Robert “Bobby” Williams; Norfolk resident Richard H. Nettleton; and Powhatan resident Christopher Kelly Rapp.

Marisha Clark, who lives across the street from the municipal complex, said she spent the weekend trying to figure out how much to explain to her kids — ages 7 and 11 — about the shooting.

“I will never get that out of my mind: My 11-year-old running into the house, shouting, ‘Mommy, there’s a mass shooting,’ ” Clark said.

After she dropped her kids off at school on Monday, she went to the complex.

Outside of Building 6, she found a table full of brightly painted rocks, with paint markers for writing messages that will eventually go into a community rock garden.

Clark took a yellow rock and held it in her hand for a long time. “We’re not strangers. We’re community at this point. We are all hurting. We are really hurting,” she said.

She wrote in capital letters on the rock, simply: LOVE.

Dana Hedgpeth, Jennifer Jenkins, Justin Jouvenal, Patricia Sullivan, Julie Tate, Laura Vozzella and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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