Photo from Thalia Gardens Apartments resident shows
Neighbors had been complaining for days about noise from unit 102 in an apartment building at the sprawling Thalia Gardens.
A group of maintenance workers knocked on the door Wednesday afternoon to tell William T. Smith it was time for him to leave.
They were stunned when he reportedly answered the door naked.
The workers told the man to put on clothes and said they would be back in an hour. They went away joking about him.
When they returned, William T. Smith was dressed and holding two semi-automatic weapons, police said. He began shooting without warning.
Police don't know why Smith opened fire or in what order five apartment workers were shot.
"They were pretty much ambushed," said Adam Bernstein, police spokesperson. "As for who got shot when, where and how many times, we don't know."
Smith, 52, was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and a MAC 10 9-mm handgun, police said.
Across the street, Anthony Burns heard a noise that sounded like metal crashing into a dumpster. He rushed to his apartment window and saw a woman falling against a car. A man with a gun pivoted to the left and shot a person who was running away.
"Then he turned around and calmly walked back inside," Burns said Thursday. "That was the scary part."
Rebecca Hughes, 32, a mother of two and a maintenance worker in the complex, died in the parking lot. Her body remained where she fell for hours. Three others were wounded in the shouting spree but escaped and were taken to hospitals.
Later, police would discover Sam Shestul, 63, a maintenance worker and immigrant from Ukraine, shot dead in the apartment building with Smith, who apparently killed himself, police said.
Police did not name the wounded, saying only that two people were in stable condition Thursday evening and one in critical condition.
The workers are employees of S.L. Nusbaum Realty Co., property manager for the complex.
Smith had been living in the unit, but it was rented to his mother who lives in New York, a company official told The Associated Press.
Ronald Boyce, father of Hughes, said he had been told the same thing.
The police provided no details about Smith's background or motive.
"I can't believe this guy just killed people for no reason at all," a tearful Boyce said outside the townhouse where his daughter lived in the 5300 block of Leicester Court in Virginia Beach. "The woman had everything to live for. Kids are supposed to outlive you."
Workers went to the unit to ask Smith to leave because many neighbors had complained about him, said Barbara Bryant, Hughes' younger sister, who also was working Wednesday at the complex.
Police have described it as an inspection prior to an eviction. When he came out nude they told him to put on some clothes and they would come back in an hour, Boyce said he was told. He said the staff laughed about the naked man.
Rebecca had two children, 8 and 11, Boyce said. Her husband, who is in the military in Iraq, is on his way home, Boyce said.
Neighbor Catherine Simmons described Hughes as a generous person who would help her put up Christmas lights and fix her lawn mower.
"She was really devoted to that property," Bryant said. "She didn't deserve this."
Friends remembered Shestul as a mechanical genius who calmly handled most situations. "No problem," was one of his favorite expressions.
"He could fix anything you put in front of him," said Paul Hanes, who said he worked as a maintenance man at Thalia Gardens with Shestul for 15 years before retiring.
Jane Hohn, who used to live in Thalia Gardens, said Shestul had taught her some Russian words and joked with her about the cost of American health care while he was dealing with a hurt elbow.
"I'd say, 'You know, you all are communists over there,' and he'd say, 'I know, but we get free medical care,'" Hohn said.
Shestul lived with his wife in the 1000 block of Woodrow Ave. in Norfolk.
The shooting started just before 5 p.m. Wednesday. Police arrived shortly after that, sealed off the area and attempted to coax the shooter out of the house until about 10:20 p.m. when a SWAT team entered the building and found Smith and Shestul were dead. Police never fired a shot, so they assume Smith took his own life sometime during the standoff.
A fund is being established for the victims, said Michael R. Devine, an S.L. Nusbaum vice president, but the details still were being finalized Thursday afternoon. "We're working with the families," he said. "They've had some devastating losses."
Staff writers Cindy Clayton and Patrick Wilson and news researcher Jake Hays contributed to this report.
Aaron Applegate, (757) 222-5122. firstname.lastname@example.org
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