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11 Victims Killed In Shooting In Virginia's Largest City


This evening we're following news of a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Va. Around 4 p.m. today, a gunman identified by police as a current city employee opened fire in a municipal building. Police Chief Jim Cervera said 11 victims are dead. The shooter fired at officers and was killed by police. City council member Barbara Henley joins us now from Virginia Beach. Thank you for being here on what I know is a very difficult day.

BARBARA HENLEY: Very difficult, yes.

SHAPIRO: Tell us how you learned about the shooting.

HENLEY: Well, I happened to just pull up at city hall as it was in process, I suppose, just to get some papers. And I asked the people outside what was going on, and they said, well, there was a shooting. And about that time, I heard a obvious police loud voice say, get down. And I was still in my car, so that was the time for me to leave and get out of their way. To find out what was really going on is just devastating.

SHAPIRO: I know you spent a good deal of time in this part of the city both as a council member and a member of the community. Can you describe for us the building where this took place?

HENLEY: Well, our complex is very large and a beautiful place. And to think that this is where it happened - but this was what we called our operations building where our public works, public utilities and planning departments are all located. And it's of course open to the public because that's where public is in and out doing their business with the city and having their plans approved and so forth. So it's a very open building and doesn't have that security that we may have to go to because we have to be prepared for these kinds of things. We thought we were, but I guess you're never prepared for it.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. We're only beginning to learn about the victims. Do you know whether anyone who you knew was in the building where the shooting took place.

HENLEY: I'm sure I knew these people. I haven't heard any names. I know out of respect for the families, those names won't be released until families are notified. But I just have the greatest respect for our employees who spend their days serving the citizens. And they're wonderful people, and my heart goes out to all of them - those who were just in the building and those who of course were the victims.

SHAPIRO: And we should mention that one police officer apparently is in the hospital with an injury. I imagine you're hearing from friends, neighbors, colleagues and constituents. What kind of response are you hearing from the community right now?

HENLEY: Disbelief. We just think of Virginia Beach as being a perfectly safe city. I get out of my car over there all the time and forget to lock it and don't worry a bit although they keep telling me, make sure you lock your car. It's a safe city. We just don't think of these things. And it just doesn't seem right for it to have happened here. But obviously this kind of thing can happen anyplace. That's what our society has to worry about. We've got to figure out how we can stop this.

SHAPIRO: And as a city council member, I imagine part of your task in the days and weeks ahead will be to lead the discussion about what to do from here.

HENLEY: Well, for sure. We have active shooter drills for our employees. We have a wonderful police department that does all the preventive planning that they should do. But I guess it just shows that you can't stop everything. And having to be prepared for these kinds of things is difficult, but I suppose we all have to be more aware.

SHAPIRO: Virginia Beach Council Member Barbara Henley, thank you and my condolences.

HENLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.