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His Final Act Was to Save His Colleagues

Keith Cox died a hero in Virginia Beach
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2019 3:47 PM CDT
This combination of photos provided by the City of Virginia Beach on Saturday, June 1, 2019, shows victims of Friday's shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va.   (Courtesy City of Virginia Beach via AP)
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(Newser) – One of Ryan Keith Cox's final actions was to rush seven or eight of his colleagues at Virginia Beach's public utilities department to safety as a shooter rampaged through the municipal building Friday—sacrificing his own life in the process. Cox, who went by Keith, told the group—which included his longtime friend, Christi Dewar—to stand against the break room wall as he kept an eye out for the shooter, another city employee who had just submitted his resignation. "If at all possible, I knew he was going to lead us to safety," Dewar tells the Virginian-Pilot of Cox. "We felt safe. He stayed calm. He didn't have any anxious thought in his voice." After making sure the coast was clear, Cox ushered the group into a nearby office and ordered them to lock and barricade the door—while refusing to come in himself.

"He said 'I've got to see if anybody else needs help,'" Dewar says. The shooter eventually approached the room and started firing through the door; as the people inside dropped to the ground for safety, Dewar fell against boxes, making a crunching sound. "I don't know if he thought he hit somebody or what," Dewar says of the shooter. "But we could tell that he was away from the door. Then the next shot we heard is I guess when he found Keith." Cox was one of a dozen people killed that day in the municipal building; the group saw him lying on the ground about 10 feet from the door when police arrived. As police escorted the group out of the building, "as we went down the stairwell, I had to step over one of my friends," Dewar tells NPR. That woman also died, Dewar tells WAVY. (Meanwhile, police have released the shooter's brief resignation letter; read it here.)

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