VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach’s police chief said while the criminal investigation into the Municipal Center mass shooting is nearly complete, the full findings may not be made public initially.
“Once we are complete, we will be able to release some of the findings but we are working closely with the independent investigators and do not want to be perceived as influencing anything they are doing,” said Chief James Cervera, of the Virginia Beach Police Department.
Cervera made the comments Tuesday afternoon after appearing before the Virginia Beach City Council for the first time since a 40-year-old Public Utilities employee shot and killed 12 and injured 4 in Municipal Building 2 on May 31st.
While the presentation focused on crime statistics for the first half of 2019, Cervera in responding to a question from Mayor Bobby Dyer about the status of the mass shooting criminal investigation, revealed there was, in fact, two separate investigations.
One has been completed according to Cervera. The four officers that engaged in a gun battle with the gunman that ultimately lead to his death, have been cleared by the Commonwealth Attorney’s office.
“We did a complete investigation on that as we should have,” Cervera said.
The other investigation has to do with the gunman’s involvement.
“At last check, we have interviewed over 280 people,” Cevera said. “The investigative division sent out a Survey Monkey to all employees who worked in Building 2.”
Cervera said his department is nearly complete with its work, but the FBI is not. The FBI was in charge of the initial investigation inside Building 2 in the aftermath of the shooting, reconstructing the scene and collecting evidence.
“It is going to take them a while to finish their investigative end, which is their evidence collection, it will take the time to finish that,” Cervera said.
In the meantime, Cervera said the department will continue to meet with Hillard Heintze, the firm hired to conduct an independent investigation into the tragedy.
City Auditor Lyndon Remias, however, pointed out that the firm has never requested the police hold off on releasing anything to his knowledge.
“The independent investigators are working independently and they are forming their own opinions and certainly we don’t want them to be influenced in regards to whether [the chief] is going to release his report or not,” Remias said.
Cervera, who under current city code will have to retire next spring, became emotional talking about how his officers have performed in the wake of the shooting.
“The virtues of being a cop is your police department. These officers have compassion for their citizens, they have understanding for their citizens and they do one hell of a good job,” Cervera said.