Processing Workplace Trauma After a Mass Shooting in Virginia Beach
What happened during the Virginia Beach Mass Shooting?
On May 31, 2019, DeWayne Craddock turned in his letter of resignation to city management—leaving his position as a long-time employee within the city’s public utilities department, a municipal center. Hours later, he fatally shot 12 people and injured four others in a rampage at the same Virginia Beach municipal building within the Princess Anne area of Virginia Beach, VA. Police officers from the Virginia Beach Police Department responded, and the gunman was killed in a gunfight with the members of law enforcement.
How do employees mentally recover after violence in the workplace?
Workplace violence doesn’t just impact the shooting victims. The Virginia Beach mass shooter caused employee mental health trauma throughout the organization. Traumatic mental health stressors of this extreme nature need to be addressed immediately so that the people within the organization can begin their path to recovery.
R3c acted as “behavioral health first responders” for the impacted employees of the municipal building where the workplace shooting occurred, as well as for the larger impacted community. R3c also supported the city leaders of Virginia Beach as they navigated the aftermath of workplace violence and its impact on their community.
Due to the proximity of the shooting to the Norfolk, VA, military base, the surrounding Virginia Beach community was shaped by a strong military identity. This identity made it challenging for them to express and process their grief, as many had been taught to not show emotion and carry on.
The Virginia Beach workplace shooting highlighted the fact that each community and culture brings its own history and expectations to the table, offering not just unique vulnerabilities—but also unique strengths. These special strengths are what make a community’s resiliency so powerful and further cement the reason for R3c’s tailored approach to responding to disruption.
Indeed, the community’s military identity was also their strength: it offered a unique foundation of true grit for them to draw from for their resiliency.
How did R3c help employees and the community recover after workplace violence?
R3c was called to respond to the mass shooting and to hold several trainings for the impacted City of Virginia Beach community, including family members and surviving city employee co-workers. This custom-designed communication in the wake of shocking workplace violence helped people learn to take important steps to care for themselves following the tragedy.
Co-workers who had been in the municipal building the day of the shooting required a different and highly-specialized kind of immediate behavioral health support—beyond typical counseling. R3c consultants receive intense and specific training to appropriately support those affected by the disruption of workplace violence.
The R3c team was also called in to provide crisis leadership support for city leaders. The area surrounding the municipal center in Virginia Beach where the shooting occurred was semi-rural and very quiet, with farmland and a few neighborhoods nearby.
While citizens of the area were familiar with sending loved ones off to war, few had ever experienced any sort of disruption like a mass shooting before. City council members and city leaders had to lead during a time they never wished to experience, and they, too, needed expert support to do so and help the people they represent.
What was the impact of R3c's support?
As a result of R3c’s help, the impacted employees of the Virginia Beach municipal center were able to draw from each other’s resilience—and the resilience of their community—and begin processing their grief and trauma within the supportive group training led by R3c consultants.
These unique trainings also gave the employees mental health tools to care for themselves in the weeks and months that would follow. This step was a critical part of helping them along the road of healing and recovery following the shooting—and eventually helping them return to work.
R3c’s support directly impacted the way that city leadership was able to handle the intense stress of having to lead a community experiencing a deep tragedy and loss of loved ones, helping them to make decisions that would help their people the most.
Don’t wait until a piece of breaking news about violence in the workplace to navigate how you will support your people.