VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Christi Dewar believes she might not be here had it not been for the actions of coworker Ryan Keith Cox.
Cox, who went by Keith, was one of the 12 victims in Friday’s shooting at the Municipal Center. Before he was killed, he helped guide seven people to safety.
“I credit Keith to the fact that I’m still here that I can still hug my son and hug my baby granddaughter,” Dewar told WTKR in an interview on Sunday.
Cox and Dewar began working for the city on the same day in 2006. Cox was known his singing at New Hope Baptist Church, where his father was a singer. Dewar says he was a “good Christian man.”
“He was the epitome of what everybody should be and strive to be,” Dewar said.
Dewar and Cox were inside of Building Two on Friday afternoon. Just after 4 pm, Dewar heard some pops, but at first thought it was just construction noise. Then, a coworker told them there was an active shooter and to run out of the building.
“We started running towards the south staircase,” she said. “Somebody screamed, ‘It’s too late run the other way!'”
The group of seven turned around and that’s where they met Cox. He calmly directed them into a nearby office, but didn’t join them.
“I said, ‘Keith, come on!’ He said, ‘I need to check on some other people.’ He didn’t come in with us,” she said.
Outside of the door, they could hear gunshots and say the shooter fired four times nearby.
After a little while, a police officer announced he was outside, so they opened the door slightly. That’s when one of them saw Cox on the ground. He died. “It breaks my heart,” she said.
Eventually, the police came and guided them out of the building. As they went down the stairs, they encountered another body. She later discovered it was another coworker, Missy Langer. “I stopped and I was shaking so hard and crying,” she said. “The officer grabbed my hand and squeezed me and said your’e strong you can do this.”
Then, the group made it out of the building. Dewar did several interviews with police and says she’s told them how Cox saved the group.
“He acted as a leader,” she said. “He positioned himself to be the one who would see what was happening and what needed to be done and where we needed to go. He took control of the situation.”
Now that he’s gone, Dewar is hoping the city will find a way to permanently honor him. She’s spoken with his family to tell them about his heroics.
She wishes she could pass on one last message to him. “I adore you. I love you and I will miss you.”