Lake Wales Officials Discuss Safety in Light of Virginia Beach Shootings
Last updated 6/5/2019 at 9:42am
In the wake of the recent shooting incident that killed 12 people at the Virginia Beach municipal building, Lake Wales city officials started discussing safety procedures and some building security upgrades.
City Manager Ken Fields told commissioners at their June 4 meeting that he already was planning a lobby renovation, but "we are taking another look at that with an eye toward security of the building."
A 15-year Virginia Beach public utilities civil engineer opened fire with a 45-caliber handgun May 31, killing 11 co-workers and one person who was there to obtain a permit. According to reports the man had a satisfactory performance rating but had turned in his two weeks' notice that morning, noting in an email "it has been a pleasure to serve the City." He died in a gun battle with police.
Fields said, "Over time we've been addressing a number of more minor issues but obviously that is now a very, very major issue we have to consider. In part of the redesign we will be looking at additional security features for the building. I hate to say it but that's the age we live in nowadays that we have to worry about those kinds of things. But like I said the safety of employees is always one of my primary concerns."
Dr. James Moyer opened the meeting with prayer, saying: " As we pray over the deliberations that will take place in this room we remember those lives that were taken in Virginia Beach. Father, what a horrible act of violence that was committed there, and I just pray that that community will be able to recover and support one another and help each other come thru this difficult time. Father, I would pray that your hedge of protection would be around Lake Wales that something like that would never happen in our community."
Vice Mayor Robin Gibson said Moyer's words were timely: "I came here wondering what our procedures are. To give everybody confidence I think it would probably be a good idea for us to go over our procedures whatever they would be.
"The thing what's unnerving about Virginia Beach is that the shooter was an employee in good standing," Gibson said. "I don't know if there were any clues ahead of time that something like this could possibly happen, but as compared to all other incidents where there were advanced clues that weren't paid enough attention to, this one is different."
Fields said he will brief commissioners individually about safety measures in place for them and city employees.
Gibson noted that the police chief of Virginia Beach did his city proud with his comments and handling of the situation, but he hopes Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez is never put into that position.
"Like the city manager said these are the times, and we've got a great bunch of people in this community. We need to stick together and provide for them," Gibson said.
Mayor Eugene Fultz said safety was a major topic of discussion at a recent meeting of the Sheriff's Advisory Council. He said Sheriff Grady Judd speaks highly of the Lake Wales police and the chief: "He said we have a very good and very competent police chief (Chris Velasquez) here in Lake Wales. He approves of you (Velasquez) and your tactics, and I think that's a good thing."
Fultz said he always appreciates the fact that "Lake Wales' finest" police officers are present at every city commission meeting and that even people with concealed carry permits are not allowed to bring firearms into the building.
"It's all about protecting the citizens," Fultz said. "Whatever we do here in the city to protect us, to protect our citizens, to protect our city, we need to put it in place and we need to do just that."