Officers scouted each office and closet, looking for survivors, opening doors to find scared government workers praying they would survive.
Footage from the rescues shows law enforcers guiding petrified employees down a stairwell where one person lay dead. “Look me in the eye, I’ll help you down,” they said. “Don’t look down, look at me. Focus on me.”
The heroism and compassion shown by his officers in those chaotic moments stayed with Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera, who described some of the body camera footage in an interview with USA TODAY.
Cervera said police work naturally takes an emotional toll. “It’s the death by 1,000 cuts. It’s the water torture, drip by drip. It eventually has a toll on who you are as a person,” he said.
But “to walk into a scene like this, it has an instantaneous effect on you.”