VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Beach mass shooting commission held its first hearing Thursday night, where its 20 members heard from the community and family members who lost loved ones during the deadly shooting at Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on May 31, 2019.
Family members of the victims are calling for more transparency.
"My sister was a victim, and that night was a night of hell," one speaker said.
"Close your eyes for a minute and imagine your family members going to work one day and not coming home," another speaker said.
Seven people spoke during the hearing as the commission took notes. Some are asking for the commission to investigate the city's workplace culture.
"That man may have had some issues, definitely. There was personal issues going on with that man. He was in a hostile environment that caused more problems, and if that’s happening again still today, can another shooting happen?" said a speaker whose sister died in the mass shooting.
"To this day, I hear employees describe the toxic environment that continues to thrive in the city, and have heard stories filled with fear that another shooting will occur," a former Virginia Beach city worker said.
The sister of a city worker who was killed during the shooting says they would consistently have conversations about the workplace culture before her sister died.
"It got to the point where I would ask her, 'How’s your boss treating you today?' and she would either say, 'I’ll talk to you later,' in a whisper, or she would say, 'It’s a good day because she’s not here today.' That boss retired the same day that she was killed."
Robert Bracknell, the vice chair of the commission, says the commission’s goal is to examine the shooting and provide recommendations to prevent further mass shootings.
"We are in a position to issue some recommendations that might have been beyond the scope of some of the other investigating bodies. For example, the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit is not in a position to make recommendations about reforms that Virginia Beach might undertake to make a safer worker environment; that’s not what they do," Bracknell said.
The vice chair of the commission says they will look into the concerns raised at the hearing.
On November 1, the commission will issue a report to the state legislature that describes the progress made so far and their findings. The commission anticipates their work will continue into 2022.