Families of mass shooting victims react to Pharrell's letter calling out City of Virginia Beach for 'toxic energy' around 2019 killings

Here are the 12 victims killed in the Virginia Beach mass shooting
Posted at 4:01 PM, Oct 06, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Those who lost their lives in the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center more than two years ago were mentioned in Pharrell Williams' letter to the city as he confirmed that his major music festival, Something in the Water, will not be held in Virginia Beach in 2022.

The city claimed it found no motive as to why a shooter went on a rampage inside the building May 31, 2019, and two years later there is still no memorial for the 12 employees who were gunned down while simply at work.

Pharrell, a Virginia Beach native, used the words "toxic energy" in his letter, stating that's his view of how the City of Virginia Beach is being run.

"Toxic" is a word very familiar in describing the environment inside Building 2. The word "toxic" was cited both in the FBI's report on the mass tragedy and the Hillard Heintze independent report.

Pharrell called the city out, stating it was "toxic energy that changed the narrative around the mass murder and senseless loss of life inside Building 2."

"It is a good old boy system," said Jason Nixon, who lost his wife Kate in the mass shooting. "You had a toxic environment from the top down."

Kate Nixon, an engineer and mother to three girls, wanted to bring a gun to work that day because she was afraid the shooter was looking to retaliate on workplace grievances.

"The city should have been accountable. They knew all about this in 2016 and did nothing," Jason said.

Jason, who went to high school with Pharrell, is elated that the singer is taking the city to task.

"I am glad Pharrell came out and put us on a national platform, because this is what I have been trying to do from day one," he said. " I felt a sigh of relief. I'm sorry he had to take a personal loss, but it's been a loss to my family and other families."

Denise Smallwood, twin sister of Joshua Hardy, who was also gunned down in the mass shooting, spoke out Wednesday.

"I want to thank Pharrell for recognizing the City of Virginia Beach as toxic. How many more lives have to be lost for Virginia Beach to step up and own its issues?" she said. "I thought May 31 would be a wake-up call, however, Virginia Beach never changed. They continued with business as usual."

Joshua Hardy's brother W.E. Hoskins, Jr. also spoke out. "I cannot criticize Pharrell Williams in recognizing the truth about the City of Virginia Beach," he said. "This is a sad day for me."

Debbie Borato, who lost her sister Missy Langer in the mass shooting, also agreed with Pharrell, stating, "I am thrilled Pharrell has made a stand. Some don't like it, however, it takes money to fight power and the May 31st families don't have the exposure or the money Pharrell has. There is a right and a wrong here, and Pharrell is right."