A longtime city employee shot and killed 11 people and injured six others after opening fire late Friday afternoon in the public works building where he worked, police said. The man was then killed by officers after firing at them.

One officer was shot during the exchange, but was saved by his bullet proof vest, Police Chief James Cervera said during a news conference a couple of hours after the incident.

“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dwyer said as he opened up the news conference. “The people involved are our friends, coworkers, neighbors and colleagues.”

The shooter was a current and longtime employee of the public utilities department, Cervera said. 

The gunfire began shortly after 4 p.m., just as workers were wrapping up their day and preparing to leave for the weekend. The Operations building where it occurred is next to City Hall and houses the planning, public utilities, public works departments, among others. 

Megan Banton, an administrative assistant in the public utilities office where the man worked, said her supervisor heard a noise, then shouted for everyone to get down.

The supervisor then pulled Banton and others into her office, and shoved a desk against the door, while Banton called 911.

“It felt like forever,” Blanton said. 

Arthur Felton, an 18-year employee in the planning department, was also inside when the shooting started. He evacuated the building after a coworker heard gunshots. 

“I never thought this would happen in my building,” Felton said. “The people who were shot — I’m sure I know most of them.”

Public Works spokesman Drew Lankford, who works in the Operations building, left the office on Friday afternoon to get a haircut. While he was gone, his daughter called and said there had been a shooter in his work building. 

His daughter, who works in the City Hall building, said security told everyone to get under their desks. He rushed back to the office and saw cops taking cover behind parked cars with their guns drawn.

City Councilwoman Barbara Henley had just pulled up to the City Hall building just after 4 p.m. to pick up the agenda as she does every week when she heard sirens and saw police cars.

“I thought it was an accident,” Henley said.

As she parked her car in the lot between Building 1 and 2, she noticed city employees standing outside using their cellphones. Someone told her there was a shooting and she should leave. Henley had gotten back in her car when she heard a male voice shout, “Get down!”

Virginia Beach Municipal Center Map

Circled in red is the Operations Center in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center where police say a shooter injured multiple people on Friday afternoon, May 31, 2019. 

People scattered.

“I was scared to death,” Henley said.

She quickly drove home.

Henley said she’s never seen a situation like this before at the Municipal Center, adding that security has recently been “beefed up” in the City Hall building as a result of shooting incidents across the nation, but that some of the other municipal buildings do not take the same security measures.

The school administration building near City Hall went on lockdown at 4:24 p.m., a school system spokeswoman said.

Staff writers Gordon Rago, Jane Harper, Robyn Sidersky and Sara Gregory contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check for more details.

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