CHESAPEAKE, Va. - A Chesapeake man was charged with multiple federal crimes, including attempted murder, after an alleged attack on a security guard at the Norfolk Social Security Administration building Monday.
According to court documents, 44-year-old William Douglas Rankin is alleged to have entered the Norfolk SSA building on February 8, armed with a .380 firearm, a 9-millimeter rifle and approximately 600 rounds of ammunition, including three fully loaded extended 9mm magazines.
The federal affidavit outlined the disturbing events. Moments after walking into the building around 3:30 p.m., authorities said Rankin yelled to the security guard on duty, “I want my money!”
The document went on to say Rankin had a brief verbal interaction with the guard and told him he wasn’t leaving without his mother’s money. Rankin then allegedly pulled out a pistol and, at close range, fired at least five rounds at the 52-year old security guard, hitting him multiple times.
The security guard suffered non-fatal injuries.
“It is very clear that the intentions of this particular suspect, had a bag with multiple weapons, multiple ammunition,” said Rick James, a criminal justice analyst and former Norfolk Police officer. “He had sandwiches. He had beer to drink, so it sounds like he was planning on being there for a while.”
Besides guns, authorities also found three sandwiches and three bottles of beer inside Rankin’s bag.
According to court documents, Rankin’s wife said he’d been dealing with social security over the phone for several months about his mother’s benefits.
James believes that day could have turned into another mass shooting in Hampton Roads.
“It appears he got frustrated about that and decided to handle it through criminal actions and maybe even cause harm to the people who work for social security,” James said.
Authorities said the guard was shot in the arm, shoulder and both legs, and a ballistic vest stopped shots to the guard's chest.
Despite his injuries, the guard fired multiple rounds striking Rankin, which stopped him in his tracks. The security guard escaped to an elevator and when he got to the second floor of the building, he warned others and told them to call 911. He then went back downstairs and waited for officers to arrive.
“He was in what we call fight or flight… this person decided, although he was shot several times, he decided to stand and fight and that decision and that training enabled him to not only save his life but appeared to save the lives of other the other people in that building,” James said. “The good part is that our government agencies and officers do have either policemen or security people to protect people working there and that’s their jobs, to protect them from harm and danger. That’s exactly what this security person did. He did his job and he did it well.”
Approximately 150 people, including 68 federal employees and a number of Administrative Law Judges, work at the Social Security building on Lake Herbert Drive in Norfolk. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of them were not in the building during the altercation.
The security guard is expected to make a full recovery.
Rankin was taken to the hospital for life-threatening injuries. Neither police nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to a request for an update on his condition.
Rankin was charged with attempted murder of a person assisting an officer or employee of the U.S. government; possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence; assault of a person assisting an officer or employee of the U.S. government; possession of firearms in a federal facility; and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Based on the charges in the criminal complaint, if convicted, Rankin faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life in prison.
Federal authorities said Rankin was convicted of a felony in Texas in 2005 for possession of a controlled substance.