Police search for motive in Virginia shooting

Frank Janes is comforted by his wife, Cathie Janes, during the prayer vigil at Strawbridge Marketplace in response to a shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia on Saturday.

US: Police in Virginia searched Saturday for a motive as to why a public utilities engineer shot indiscriminately at his workplace colleagues, turning a municipal building into a war zone as he killed at least 12 people and wounded four.

Authorities named the gunman in Friday’s attack as DeWayne Craddock, described in news reports as being 40 years of age, and said that in order to focus attention on the victims of the latest spasm of America’s gun violence epidemic, they would not pronounce his name again.

Craddock, killed in a fierce gun battle with police, was a current employee of the public works department of Virginia Beach and had worked there about 15 years, police chief James Cervera told a news conference. The shooter was armed with a .45-caliber handgun fitted with a sound suppressor, and he reloaded multiple times with extended magazines. The building where the shooting took place in Virginia Beach -- a city of 450,000 people about 200 miles (320 kilometres) southeast of Washington -- housed the city’s public works and utilities offices and can have 400 people inside at any time.

“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dyer told reporters. “The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbors and colleagues.” Megan Banton, a public utilities employee, told local television station WVEC that during the chaos she and about 20 coworkers hid in an office, where they used a desk to wedge the door shut. According to the Washington-based Gun Violence Archive monitoring group, Friday’s shooting was the 150th mass shooting in the United States this year, defined as a single event in which four or more people are shot or killed.

Despite the scale of gun violence across the nation, gun ownership laws are lax and efforts to address the issue legislatively have long been deadlocked at the federal level.

Among Democrats, the response to the shooting was especially pointed, with many of the party’s White House hopefuls weighing in on the gun violence crisis.

“Another horrific shooting shocks the nation, this time in Virginia Beach,” Pete Buttigieg tweeted. “Already, this much is clear: it is unacceptable for America to remain the only developed country where this is routine. We must act.”

Senator Bernie Sanders decried the influence of the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby group that routinely calls for more guns in US society so that ordinary citizens are armed and ready to confront a “bad guy.”

“The days of the NRA controlling Congress and writing our gun laws must end. Congress must listen to the American people and pass gun safety legislation. This sickening gun violence must stop,” he said in a tweet.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said it was a “horrific day” for the state.

Singer and music producer Pharrell Williams, a native of Virginia Beach, paid homage to the strength of his hometown.

“We are praying for our city, the lives that were lost, their families and everyone affected. We are resilient,” he said in a tweet. - AFP

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