Few degrees of separation from the Virginia Beach shooting

By Mike Spriegel | June 3rd, 2019

Friends in Virginia Beach government and his own experience with a threatening employee

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My good friend, Mark Johnson (one of the nicest and funniest people you will ever meet), is the Director of Public Works for Virginia Beach. [During the mass shooting on May 31, during which a shooter killed 12 people and injured several others, including a police officer], he would have been in his office had he not left yesterday morning for an out-of-town trip. My brother-in-law, Phil Meekins, works for Mark, but not in that building.

Mark may have been a target of the deranged gunman – Mark’s son is a city engineer who was in the building and carried victims out past bodies in halls and stairways. I know Mark is devastated that 12 of his colleagues are dead and others in critical condition.

Over 20 years ago, when I was the HR manager for Carlisle Corp in Fredericksburg, I had an inebriated employee break my nose and threaten to kill me along with his supervisor and the plant manager. He had just purchased a .357 revolver a few days before. Prior to that, I had referred him to our employee assistance program as a condition of employment, but it didn’t take (EAP’s were a new concept back then). My nose was incidental; I was more concerned about my wife and newborn daughter.

I had to go to the magistrate to get a warrant for his arrest (looking over my shoulder all the way, knowing that my erstwhile employee was at large). He was arrested for assault and battery that night, but was out of jail the next day.

I asked the magistrate how a piece of paper was going to protect me and my family from a drunk, crazy, violent disgruntled employee with a hand-cannon, and he said, “It won’t, but there’s a gun shop a couple of blocks from here.” I bought my first handgun that day. Some people were appalled, but I got a concealed handgun permit and kept it (trigger-locked) in my car and house. And if anyone ever attempted to harm my wife and daughter, there wouldn’t have been enough bullets – and unlike the Virginia Beach police officers yesterday, I would not have administered first aid to the dirt-bag.

I wrote a story last year about a ride-along I did with a Virginia Beach police officer. I had always held law enforcement in high regard, but after that ride-along and the actions of VB officers yesterday I will remain in awe of these brave, underpaid, underappreciated public servants. I sent a copy of the story along with a letter to Chief Cervera and the mayor of Virginia Beach last spring (who, sadly, were in the news yesterday).


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