VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The City Auditor has selected Hillard Heintze, a Chicago-based consulting firm, to conduct an independent investigation into the mass shooting that took 12 people's lives -- 11 of whom worked for the city.
Officials with Virginia Beach confirmed that 15 bids were submitted with the auditor, Lyndon Remias, picking Hillard Heintze to do the investigation.
He says the firm has a very experienced staff, including former secret service agents, law enforcement officers, attorneys, fraud examiners and a mental health expert.
"We are interested just as much as everyone else in getting answers to the various questions that family members have, that our employees have, that our citizens have," Remias said. "We hope that this is the first step towards not only in getting those answers, but the first step in the healing process."
The investigation will create a timeline of what happened, explore information on the shooter, and look into any city policies that may have been a factor - among other things.
It will be going on simultaneously with the ongoing criminal investigation by police. "One should not interfere or impede with the other," Remias said. "We're going off the approach that [Hillard Heintze is] going to have unfettered access to all documents and people."
The May 31 shooting led the Virginia Beach City Council to call for an independent investigation. At first, the city council was not confident that an independent investigation was necessary, but support from community members and some families of victims led to a vote in favor of it.
"The proposal submitted by Hillard Heintze was selected as the best proposal, and it is the city's intention to award the contract accordingly," the city said in a statement on Wednesday.
In the release, the City of Virginia Beach said it believes the independent investigation will begin by the end of July. This date would move the start of the independent investigation up by a little less than a month. Officials had originally said they were hoping to select a firm by August 15 by the latest.
Vice Mayor Jim Wood previously said there should be a firewall between the council and the investigation — they should have no part in it, no hands in it — but only to update the public to stay true to transparency.
The city auditor has read all the reports from other tragedies, such as the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Virginia Tech and the 2017 protests in Charlottesville. The investigation into the Virginia Beach mass shooting will be modeled after these investigations.
A public meeting will be held Tuesday, July 23 to introduce members of the Hillard Heintze investigatory team, which includes four former Secret Service agents, two law enforcement officers, two attorneys, two certified fraud examiners and one mental health expert.
The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. in Building 19 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. Next steps, including the company's plan of action moving forward and how it can be contacted during the investigation, will be discussed.