VIRGINIA BEACH — Chris Rapp was close to driving home to Powhatan.
Rapp was finishing his workweek as an engineer in the Virginia Beach Department of Public Works, but he’d never make it outside the building.
Around 4 p.m. Friday, police said an engineer in a different department walked in and killed Rapp and 11 others.
Rapp, a Virginia Beach native, was the shortest-tenured city employee killed in Friday’s massacre. He had worked for Virginia’s largest city for only 11 months after spending part of his career in Stafford County and a decade in Powhatan County.
“He was kind through and through,” said Carolyn Bishop, the former Powhatan county administrator who hired Rapp as director of public works. “He was always there for everybody.”
She added: “Powhatan is heartbroken. This whole thing is unbelievable.”
The motive for Friday’s mass shooting remains unclear. Police said Saturday that DeWayne Craddock, 40, who was an engineer with the city’s Department of Public Utilities, entered a building in the city’s government complex and shot people at random.
Eleven city employees, including Rapp, were killed in the shooting. Another, a contractor looking to get a city permit, was also killed. Six worked in the same department as Craddock, though authorities have declined to say if anyone was specifically targeted. Craddock was shot and killed in a gunbattle with police.
On Saturday, friends and family members clung to memories as they began to process their loss.
Tara Welch Gallagher, an engineer in the Department of Public Works, was dedicated to her career and family, especially her young son, her next-door neighbor recalled in an interview Saturday.
Barbara Airing last spoke to Gallagher a week ago as the boy played outside.
“I was just following him around and talking; he was just pointing at everything,” she said.
Airing didn’t piece together what had happened until a neighbor called Saturday morning. As authorities were processing the crime scene Friday, Airing was at TJ Maxx buying books for the boy with pictures of trucks, tractors and police cars.
“I just want to squeeze him. I can’t believe this,” she said.
LaQuita Brown, a right-of-way agent in the Department of Public Works from Chesapeake who’d worked for the city for more than four years, was described in social media posts as a woman of God who lived her faith.
“She was one of those people who just lit up a room. Every room. ... And now that light is gone, and my heart can’t stop hurting,” wrote Sinda R. Price, who referred to Brown as “big sis.”
Friends of contractor Herbert “Bert” Snelling said he was courageous and kind in a fundraising page established to support his widow, Sonja.
A co-worker said Michelle “Missy” Langer was an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan who was friendly and gregarious.
Kimberly Millering told The Washington Post that she and Langer, a 60-year-old administrative assistant with Public Utilities for 12 years who lived in Virginia Beach, were at work when the gunfire began. After a SWAT team evacuated Millering from Building 2, her fears turned to Langer, her friend of eight years. Millering, a geographic information analyst, said she tried calling Langer but no one answered.
“I will miss her smile and her hugs. That’s the hardest thing,” she said, her voice shaking. “I don’t know how I can go into that building and know that’s where she died.”
Ervin Cox Jr. told The New York Times that he and his brother, Ryan Keith Cox, had been raised by a minister and that Keith, as family members called him, had been preparing to preach his first sermon. Cox, 50, had been an account clerk for the city for a dozen years.
“He was just that caring, loving person that just cared about everybody and wanted to help everybody. He was like that at home and at church,” Ervin Cox said. “This is hard. It hurts. It hurts deep.”
Mary Louise Gayle had worked for the city for decades. She had been looking forward to receiving a free day at a spa as a reward for her work in the right-of-way section of the Public Utilities division, friends and neighbors told The New York Times.
“She was a super sweet lady; she always had this big smile,” her next-door neighbor John Cushman, 33, a firefighter for the nearby city of Portsmouth, told the paper. “She would always be out there in the yard, working on something and talking to my daughters.”
Alexander Mikhail Gusev came to the U.S. from Belarus in 2003 and earned a civil engineering degree from Old Dominion University, according to The Virginian-Pilot. Gusev, who had worked for the city for nine years as a right-of-way agent, had wanted to get married and have kids and had talked of moving out of his town house in Virginia Beach to a neighborhood with better schools, a friend told the paper.
Richard H. Nettleton worked 28 years as an engineer in the Department of Public Utilities and was remembered as a level-headed leader. A Boston Red Sox fan who sometimes played golf, according to the Pilot, Nettleton lived in Norfolk with his wife, Sarah.
The other shooting victims, who all worked in the city’s Department of Public Utilities, were identified as Robert “Bobby” Williams of Chesapeake, a special projects coordinator who had worked 41 years for the city; Katherine A. Nixon of Virginia Beach, who spent a decade with the city as an engineer; and Joshua O. Hardy of Virginia Beach, who worked 4½ years as an engineering technician.
“They leave a void we will never be able to fill,” said City Manager Dave Hansen. “Today we all grieve.”
Rapp, of Powhatan, had been elated to return to his hometown for work, recalled Bishop, the former Powhatan county administrator .
Rapp was also able to continue his love of Scottish music in Virginia Beach.
He played the bagpipes with the Greater Richmond Pipes & Drums, a competition and performance bagpipe and drum band. When he started in Virginia Beach, he got connected with the Tidewater Pipes & Drums group, picking up where he left off in Richmond, playing with the Tidewater band at the Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games last October.
He marched with the band as recently as St. Patrick’s Day, said band manager Jim Roberts.
“Chris was reserved but very friendly, quietly engaging members one-on-one after our weekly practices,” Roberts said Saturday. “Even though we didn’t have time to get to know him better, we shared a love for music that created an immediate bond.
“More importantly, he showed up and worked hard, which is all you can ask for in a group of amateur musicians.”
Karin Carmack, a member of the Powhatan Planning Commission, said she saw similar qualities while working with Rapp in planning the county’s infrastructure.
Carmack said Saturday that she was shaken by Rapp’s death: “You hear about these things but seldom do you ever expect to know someone in a mass shooting.”
Details for Rapp’s funeral were not immediately known Saturday. Whenever it is, Roberts said, the Tidewater band hopes to play at his service.
The Virginia Beach shooting is the deadliest in the U.S. so far this year and the deadliest in Virginia since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which killed 33 people.
Gov. Ralph Northam on Saturday ordered the Virginia flag to be flown at half-staff until sunset June 8 in honor of the victims.
“These are 12 individuals who came to work in the city of Virginia Beach thinking they’d go home,” Northam said. “Now there’s a void in their families.”