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Sergeants Peter Koepp Jr. and Mark Laino and Master Police Officers Christopher Watkins and Bobby Meis, Virginia Beach Police Department, Virginia

2019 State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Recipients

On May 31, 2019, calls came into the E-911 Center in Virginia Beach about a subject shooting several people at one of the city’s municipal office buildings. Additional calls confirmed that multiple people were suffering from gunshot wounds.

Virginia Beach Police Detective Sergeants Peter Koepp and Mark Laino heard the active shooter call. Despite being dressed in plain clothes, they donned body armor and without hesitation responded to the scene. Upon entering the building, they heard and then moved toward the sound of gunfire. Master Police Officer Bobby Meis, despite being off duty, also heard the call and immediately responded to the scene. Last, Master Police Officer Christopher Watkins, who was on duty, responded to the scene upon hearing the call.

All four officers arrived at nearly the same time, entered the building through different entrances, and were immediately faced with dozens of frightened and hysterical people fleeing for their lives. The officers converged toward the sound of gunfire coming from a floor above them and formed themselves into a four-person contact team. Together, they moved toward the assailant who was actively shooting on the second floor.

As they exited the stairway, they noticed a bullet hole in a door confirming that the shooter was nearby. They began checking rooms and offices and found them to be empty. But as Officer Meis approached a door with a window in it, he saw the assailant pointing a gun at him through the window. Officer Meis fired his carbine striking the assailant who then fled down a side hallway.

The shooter was a city employee who worked in the building and was familiar with its layout. He used this knowledge to circle around and approach the contact team from the rear. Once positioned behind the officers, he fired at them through a wooden door.

The officers were returned fire, and during the exchange of gunfire, Sergeant Koepp was struck in the abdomen by a round fired by the assailant. Although the bullet was stopped by his body armor, he suffered blunt trauma injuries that knocked him to the floor. Despite his injuries, Sergeant Koepp continued to return fire. Seeing his wounded team member, Sergeant Laino, while under fire, dragged Sergeant Koepp to a nearby stairwell where there was relative safety. Officers Watkins and Meis continued to return fire as Sergeants Koepp and Laino fired at the assailant through the wall. During a shooting lull, Sergeant Laino evacuated Sergeant Koepp from the building. Officer Meis continued to receive gunfire from the shooter in a protracted engagement.

During the first and second exchanges of gunfire, Sergeants Laino and Koepp and Officers Meis and Watkins courageously returned fire in order to protect people in the building. Their engagement of the shooter allowed time for assisting officers to arrive and then evacuate the remaining employees, some of whom were seriously injured.

When the SWAT Team officers arrived, they closed in on the shooter lying mortally wounded with multiple gunshots on the ground behind the door.

During this incident, there were 300 employees and citizens in the building, of whom 11 employees and 1 citizen were shot and killed by the suspect. The quick, decisive, and courageous actions of Sergeants Koepp and Laino and Master Police Officers Meis and Watkins ensured that an untold number of people were saved. They contained the shooter within minutes of the initial call for service and incapacitated him after a protracted gunfight.

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