A Virginia state trooper from Gloucester was fatally shot Thursday at a busy bus terminal in Richmond.
The assailant was shot dead by two other troopers, police said.
Trooper Chad P. Dermyer, 37, was shot multiple times, according to Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty. Two civilians, both women, were also shot, but are expected to recover, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
Dermyer was a former Newport News police officer and lived in Gloucester, according to the state police.
Flaherty said investigators don't know what sparked the shooting. Dermyer had been participating with about a dozen other troopers in a training exercise at the bus station when a brief encounter with the gunman quickly turned violent, he said.
Dermyer was dressed in a fatigue-style uniform and was not wearing a protective vest, the superintendent said.
“We've got a lot of evidence to sift through,” Flaherty said. The evidence, he said, included bags that could have belonged to the gunman.
The gunman was identified Friday morning as James Brown III, 34, of Aurora, Illinois.
‘Hearts are broken’
News of Dermyer’s death in the line of duty spread quickly at the Newport News Police Department.
“He was a member of our police family. He had an excellent reputation and was an outstanding officer,” police spokesman Brandon Maynard said Thursday night. “He will definitely be missed.”
A release on the Newport News Police Department's Facebook page later Thursday stated, “While with NNPD, he served with his partner (former) Officer Cyndi Grace for a number of years and they were known and referred to throughout the department as ‘Gracemyer.’
“A loss of this magnitude cannot be put into words ... our hearts are broken. We feel incredibly blessed to have known Chad and to have been on his team. Rest in peace, friend, we have the watch now.”
Dermyer, a Jackson, Mich., native, graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in November 2014, according to a release from the state police.
His original patrol assignment was to the Chesapeake Division’s Area 46 Office, which encompasses Newport News and Hampton, the release stated. He had just recently transferred to the state police Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Interdiction Unit.
Before he joined the state police, Dermyer also served with the Jackson, Mich., Police Department and spent four years in the Marines, according to the release. He is survived by his wife and two young children, according to the statement from Newport News police.
The Hampton Police Division posted on its Facebook page Thursday night, "It is a very personal loss for those of us in the City of Hampton and here at the Hampton Police Division.
"Trooper Dermyer was actually assigned to patrol the City of Hampton and City of Newport News during his time as a trooper and he served alongside the men and women of HPD.
“Our community has lost a hero, a protector, who answered the call today without hesitation and gave his life for the nation he swore to defend.”
After the shooting, a small army of law enforcement officers in tactical gear and dozens of cruisers and emergency response vehicles flooded to the bus station, which is in an area that includes a minor league baseball stadium and a variety of commercial establishments and restaurants.
Najee Wilson, 18, of Newark, N.J., said his bus was pulling up to the station when he heard three gunshots and saw people running out of the building.
“We heard a lot of people screaming,” Wilson said. “It definitely was a scary experience.”
Wilson, who was en route to Atlanta, was among about 200 travelers waiting to board buses at a staging area set up a few blocks from the bus station after the shooting.
Leigha Schilling, who was between stops on her bus trip from New York to South Carolina, said she was smoking a cigarette outside the station Thursday when she heard banging. She went back inside briefly and saw people lying on the ground and what appeared to be blood on the floor. A security guard ordered her to get on the floor, but she ran back outside, and then heard several shots, she said.
“I was terrified,” she said. “I didn't know what was going on.”
Vincent Smith was working at the U-Haul Moving and Storage facility next door to the Greyhound station when he heard sirens and saw police cars buzzing by.
An officer stopped in and ordered him and his co-workers to stay inside and lock the doors until told it was safe again, Smith said. By late afternoon, he said he had been locked inside for about an hour and a half.
Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell called it “the saddest day in the city of Richmond.”
“State troopers doing their job and innocent people shot,” she said. “Why? This was a senseless act.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe released a statement Thursday night, saying “Dorothy and I are heartbroken by the senseless death of Virginia State Trooper Chad Dermyer, who died serving in the line of duty today in Richmond. Like so many brave Virginia men and women, Trooper Dermyer put on a uniform and risked his life every day to keep us safe, first as a U.S. Marine and then as a police officer. He was a husband, a father and a hero who was taken from us too soon.
“This is a loss that impacts us all. It should inspire prayers for the family, friends and fellow troopers who are mourning tonight, and gratitude for those who protect and serve. And as we grieve, we should also reflect, yet again, on how we can come together as a Commonwealth to end the senseless violence that costs the lives of too many mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.”
About 50 officers from the Richmond Police Department went to the bus station to assist state police, Chief Alfred Durham said.
He said law enforcement officers have become the target of “folks out there with evil intentions.”
“It's unfortunate these are the days we're living in, where folks want to harm law enforcement,” Durham said. “We just want our officers to end their shifts and to go home to their families.”
Greyhound issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying the Richmond bus station would be closed “until further notice.”
The last Virginia trooper to be killed in the line of duty was 27-year-old Trooper Nathan-Michael Smith of Henrico. Smith was responding to a call for an officer in distress on Sept. 21 when patrol car crashed in Prince George County. He died at VCU Medical Center.
Daily Press staff writers Michele Canty and Travis Fain and Associated Press writers Larry O’Dell, Alanna Durkin Richer and Steve Szkotak in Richmond and Kasey Jones in Baltimore contributed to this story.