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Ryan Keith Cox, who died protecting colleagues during Virginia Beach mass shooting, awarded Carnegie Medal
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Ryan Keith Cox, who died protecting colleagues during Virginia Beach mass shooting, awarded Carnegie Medal

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Shooting in Va. Beach city building leaves 12 dead

ryan keith cox


While a gunman roamed the halls of Building 2 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, Ryan Keith Cox directed seven of his colleagues to quietly enter an office and barricade themselves inside.

Cox refused his colleagues’ pleas to enter the office with them, instead insisting that he needed to check if anyone else needed help.

“Come on. Come on,” his colleagues urged.

“No. I gotta make sure everyone is OK,” he replied.

Soon after, the assailant encountered Cox and fatally shot him. Cox, described by friends and family as a gentle and loving person, was 50 years old.

Cox was one of 12 people shot and killed by DeWayne Craddock, 40, at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on May 31, 2019. Four others were wounded, and police officers eventually shot and killed Craddock.

The people Cox directed into the office all survived.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Wednesday Cox has been awarded the Carnegie Medal posthumously for seeing to the safety of his colleagues that day.

The medal, awarded to individuals throughout the United States and Canada who risk their lives for others, is considered North America’s highest civilian honor for heroism.

Wednesday’s announcement was the Carnegie Hero Fund’s second announcement of 2021, and Cox was one of 18 people recognized.

“We would not be in here today if Keith had not forced us into that room and made us stay in there. He gave his life so that all seven of us women could have ours,” Tara McGee, one of Cox’s coworkers, told The Pilot days after the shooting.

“I will never forget the ultimate sacrifice that he gave,” she said. “I came home to my daughters. And he didn’t get to go home to his parents.”

Cox was a public utilities account clerk who worked with Virginia Beach for 12 years.

He is remembered for his beautiful singing voice and boundless kindness.

“He died by helping others to live,” his father, E. Ray Cox, told The Pilot in 2019. “He was doing exactly what I taught him to do — to love his neighbor, be helpful to people.”

In August, President Donald Trump approved the renaming of the post office at 2509 George Mason Drive, where city workers from Building 2 were first led by police after the shooting. Now, it bears his name: the Ryan Keith Cox Post Office.

At the dedication of Ryan Keith Cox Post Office in January 2020, where a plaque was unveiled honoring Cox, Mayor Bobby Dyer said: “We are a city of heroes, and Keith is a perfect example of one of them.”

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