The numbers on the panel examining the mass shooting of Va. Beach decrease
VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — Several members of a state commission tasked with conducting an independent investigation into a 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Va., have resigned in recent months, raising doubts among some about the panel’s ability to do its job. .
The Virginia Beach Mass Shooting Commission started with 21 members, but 10 members have quit, according to a spokesperson for the state office that oversees the panel.
Some current and former members expressed frustration with the way the investigation into the shooting was conducted, suggesting efforts may be intentionally hampered to protect the city, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported.
“We lost 10 people; I’m pretty upset about it,” current member David Cariens said, telling the newspaper that most have left in the past six months.
“I think there are people in the commission who don’t want to be aggressive in the investigation,” Cariens added. “The net result of their lack of enthusiasm to investigate is that it protects the city.”
A city engineer fatally shot 12 people and injured four others on May 31, 2019 at the Virginia Beach Civic Center before being killed by police. Part of the commission’s charge is to recommend improvements to Virginia’s laws, policies and other areas to minimize the risk of future shootings.
Kate Hourin, director of communications for the Office of the State Inspector General, which oversees the commission, confirmed the 10 resignations last week but declined to comment further.
Commission Chairman Ryant Washington said some members left volunteer positions because of family issues or because it interfered with their work.
Washington, a former Fluvanna County sheriff and administrator of state law enforcement, said he hopes the vacancies will be filled, but the commission’s work will continue regardless. The group meets about once a month in Richmond.
“Many of us are working diligently,” he said. “We try to do what is offered to us and I think we will continue to do so.”
Rebecca Cowan, who resigned from the commission last month, wrote to Attorney General Jason Miyares and Virginia Beach Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler about her concerns in an email. Miyares, then another delegate from Virginia Beach, and Convirs-Fowler lobbied to create the state commission in 2020.
Cowan wrote that efforts to obtain the necessary information were met with resistance from the city and some commission members.
“In my opinion, manipulation attempts have been made to stifle the search for information,” she wrote. “I fear that the work of the commission is being obstructed from within, either deliberately or through negligence.”
Miyares and Convirs-Fowler did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper on Friday.
Vice Chairman Robert “Butch” Bracknell said the panel would benefit from increased state support, such as the addition of full-time staff members.
Jason Nixon, whose wife, Kate, was killed in the shooting, said he was deeply disappointed with the commission and no longer had confidence in its work.
“It’s embarrassing for the state of Virginia,” Nixon said. “They should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to continue.”
The FBI said in June 2021 that its investigation determined that the employee who carried out the shooting “was motivated by perceived workplace grievances” that “he had stared at for years.”