Police responding to the deadly mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building were unable to confront the gunman at one point because they didn't have the keycards needed to open doors on the second floor. Over the radio, they pleaded for the electronic cards and talked of bringing in a sledgehammer, an explosive charge, or other means of breaking down doors. The killer was eventually gunned down; whether the delay contributed to the toll of 12 victims dead and four wounded is unclear. But the episode last Friday shows how door-lock technology meant to protect people from workplace violence can hamper cops and rescue workers in emergencies, per the AP. "That's definitely a blind spot that this particular shooting has shown," says Gregory Shaffer, a retired FBI agent.
The gunman, DeWayne Craddock, went from floor to floor shooting co-workers in the rampage before he was finally killed on the second floor in a gun battle with cops. It wasn't clear how police finally got to him. Keycards have become a standard feature of building security at US workplaces. But security experts say cops often lack quick access to cards or codes—a situation that could cost them precious minutes in mass shootings. One exception is schools, which have been at the forefront in ensuring that police can quickly get inside with their own keycards or other methods. Police in some cities have installed lock boxes containing keycards or keys outside public and private buildings, but "there's no option that's perfect," says one ex-police chief. (One victim's final act was to save his colleagues.)