Virginia Beach Killer Matched the Cliche: Quiet, Polite, Unassuming

An American flag that is part of a makeshift memorial stands at the edge of a police cordon in front of a municipal building that was the scene of a shooting, Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Virginia Beach, Va. DeWayne Craddock, a longtime city employee, opened fire at the building Friday before police shot and killed him, authorities said. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
An American flag that is part of a makeshift memorial stands at the edge of a police cordon in front of a municipal building that was the scene of a shooting, Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Virginia Beach, Va. DeWayne Craddock, a longtime city employee, opened fire at the building Friday before police shot and killed him, authorities said. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

VIRGINIA BEACH -- The mass shooter who killed 12 people and injured four more in Virginia Beach Friday was much like the others.

Like the 2015 San Bernardino killer, he targeted his colleagues.

Like the 2013 Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shooter, he was discharged from the military and prepared for battle when police arrived.

And like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter in 2012, many said he was shy and quiet.

"He would be selective in who he talked to," said Thomas Rountree, a former city employee that used to park next to him most mornings. "He never gave me the time of day."

Those closest to DeWayne Craddock, including his parents and former wife, have declined to speak to reporters.

His motive, like that of the Las Vegas shooter who murdered 58 people at a musical festival in 2017, remains a mystery.

Craddock used a .45 caliber handgun and brought multiple extended magazines that were emptied by the time officers shot him. He died a short time later. Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads communities have been left reeling in the wake of the tragedy.

Experts say mass shooters almost always have a personal grievance. There are similarities, though no two are the same.

Craddock's motives remain unclear. Whether he shared some common characteristics of mass shooters, like a history of mental illness or a desire for notoriety, is unknown.

Police will spend the coming weeks and months trying to piece together why Craddock snapped.

He was born in New Bern, North Carolina, on Oct. 15, 1978. He went to Denbigh High School in Newport News and graduated in June 1996, according to a schools spokeswoman

Around the same time he joined the Army National Guard, ending up in Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, for training, according to Daily Press archives.

He never deployed overseas and was discharged on April 15, 2002. That same year, he graduated from Old Dominion University with a degree in civil engineering.

At 19, he legally changed his last name from DeWayne Antonio Hamilton to match that of his mother and stepfather.

From 2003 until 2008, Craddock worked on site plans for utility systems like water and sewage as a civil engineer for a private company, MSA, said its longtime president Bob Miller. He was laid off along with about 35 other employees in 2008.

Miller described Craddock's work as "satisfactory," just like City Manager Dave Hansen did last Sunday.

After that, he worked for the City of Newport News until joining the Virginia Beach Public Utilities' staff on Feb. 1, 2010.

Miller would run into him in Building 2, where the shooting occurred.

"I'd always say hi to him," Miller said. "He smiled and say, 'Hey, how's it going?' He wasn't a run-up-and-hug-you kind of guy."

One of the shooting victims, Rich Nettleton, hired him for the city, said Scott Acey, a partner at MSA and Craddock's former supervisor.

"DeWayne apparently listed me as a reference," Acey said, noting that he gave Craddock a good review. "It's devastating. ... That entire building are people we know on a very personal level. We deal with these people on a daily basis. And then to throw on top of that the fact that our history with DeWayne ... it's unnerving."

As a project manager, Craddock often was out in the field and dealt with the public. He led efforts to replace old pump stations and put in new sewer lines, helping residents keep their homes dry and clean.

Rose Thornton talked to Craddock last week about a longtime problem with a water project.

She first met him in 2016, when he hosted a public meeting about the Diamond Spring project. She aired her grievances then, and Craddock was a good listener, she said.

"He was very, very nice," she said.

He willingly offered his business card to residents, Thornton said.

When a construction project started last fall, Thornton said it felt like an "earthquake," shaking her house, which is right next to the worksite.

And later that day, near lunchtime, Craddock was at her door, she said, asking if anything was wrong in her home. She mentioned that a ceramic angel on top of a shelf fell and shattered.

"Next thing I know, he's coming to my door with a little angel in his hands," Thornton, 77, said. "He brought me an angel, and here he is out killing people."

While members of the public described him as warm, his co-workers found Craddock to be quiet. Sometimes he wouldn't return greetings.

Kerry Reynolds, who left his job for the city in March, is one of the few people who said he got Craddock to open up.

Every day Reynolds smoked a cigarette outside of the building before work. He'd always greet Craddock as he walked by, but didn't get much of a response. Then one day Reynolds complimented the way Craddock dressed and carried himself. He said he looked like Tiger Woods because of his polo shirt and slacks. He was fit and always had pressed clothing and a tucked-in shirt.

"You are always dressed sharp," Reynolds remembered telling him. "You always look like you're ready to take over Microsoft or something."

That was the first time Reynolds saw him smile. After that, Craddock would make small talk and discuss projects they worked on. But Reynolds said he never shared any personal information about himself.

Some colleagues who worked closely with him did not even know he was married -- and subsequently divorced.

His wedding was in Virginia Beach on Valentine's Day 2008. The couple finalized their divorce nearly a decade later, on Sept. 29, 2017, Chesapeake Circuit Court records show.

He kept the Virginia Beach home he owned, which is off Virginia Beach Boulevard, in the secluded Adkins Reserve neighborhood; she got the two dogs, Jackson and Carbon, court records say. His ex-wife declined to comment when reached at her home.

Craddock spent much of Friday, the day of the shootings, working.

At some point, he emailed a resignation letter. Exactly when is unknown because the city redacted the email's time stamp. Craddock cited unexplained personal reasons for putting in his two weeks' notice.

He reported to a job site at the intersection of Haden and King William roads and was there until 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m., according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.

About an hour later, around 4 p.m., Craddock began shooting his co-workers.

--Staff writers Gary Harki, Gordon Rago, Pete Dujardin, Jane Harper and Margaret Matray contributed to this story.

This article is written by Peter Coutu from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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