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Providing support, solidarity

The Suffolk community is reaching out to its Virginia Beach neighbors to provide assistance in the wake of the mass shooting on Friday.

A longtime Virginia Beach city employee opened fire in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Friday afternoon, killing 12 people and wounding four others. The 40-year-old shooter was killed after a gun battle with police.

Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson stated in a press release that “our hearts are broken and our thoughts and prayers are extended to city leaders, employees and citizens of Virginia Beach” following Friday afternoon’s tragic events.

Johnson also commended the heroism of first responders at the scene, who “ran into the building in the midst of gunfire” and “undoubtedly saved countless lives by their actions.”

“Our deepest condolences are extended to all,” she stated in the press release. “The city of Suffolk stands ready to provide any assistance needed, and we pray for God’s blessings in this most sorrowful time.”

The city of Suffolk and its Fire & Rescue department are grieving with the Virginia Beach community and its city employees, according to Suffolk Fire Chief Michael Barakey.

Barakey, who served as a district fire chief with the Virginia Beach Fire Department for 25 years, also praised the city’s first responders.

“Police, Fire, and EMS were well prepared, well trained, and well equipped for the events on Friday,” Barakey wrote in an email. “As with any incident, performance is based on preparation and preparedness. The response of first responders were heroic. Everyone who prepared and trained the responders, as well as the responders to the incident, should be praised for their performance.”

Suffolk Fire & Rescue is prepared to provide any assistance to Virginia Beach and has offered any resource that they need.

According to Barakey, the communications bus — a shared resource from City Information Technology and Fire & Rescue — was offered, as well as medic units, a command/rehab bus and emergency management personnel.

“Virginia Beach Emergency Manager Erin Sutton appreciated the offering of resources but stated (that) Virginia Beach Emergency Management was resource heavy,” Barakey wrote, “but may request resources in the future.”

Students and staff at Virginia Beach schools wore blue on Monday to honor those killed in the mass shooting, and Suffolk Public Schools encouraged its students and staff to do the same in support of Virginia Beach.

In response to a question about whether or not security has been increased in response to the Friday shooting, Public Information Officer Bethanne Bradshaw wrote in an email that Suffolk Public Schools “continues to be vigilant about building security.”

“Certainly, incidents such as this tragedy often bring new considerations to the forefront to strengthen our own crisis response plans,” she wrote.

Many Suffolk city employees also wore blue on Monday in support of and in solidarity with Virginia Beach city employees, according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink.

Klink wrote in an email that security at city offices were increased “prior and unrelated” to the Virginia Beach mass shooting on Friday, but also that “all safety and security measures are now being reviewed by city officials as a result of this incident.”

“Suffolk officials have made Virginia Beach officials aware of the availability of resources if needed,” she wrote. The city was not aware of any resources that had been requested or deployed as of Monday evening.

Members of the Suffolk Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance are standing in prayer with Virginia Beach, according to an email from SIMA’s the Rev. Trevon Boone.

“We know that God will provide strength and comfort in the days to come,” Boone wrote.

The Suffolk Humane Society will have at least one of its therapy dog handlers at the remembrance ceremony that will be held in Virginia Beach this Thursday evening at Rock Church, 640 Kempsville Road.

Ginger Owen, one of the volunteers with the Suffolk Humane Society’s Humane Education Committee, extended the humane society’s services to help however they can.

“We certainly would like to do whatever we can to help during this horrific time, and we are here to come if they need us — and in any capacity that they may need a certified therapy dog,” Owen said. “We would like very much to be able to help if we can, (and) our hearts go out to all of the citizens of Virginia Beach, especially those involved in this tragedy.”