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Bandmate remembers Powhatan man killed in Virginia Beach shooting: ‘I can’t believe it’

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Friends and fellow bandmates are remembering the Powhatan man killed after a gunman opened fire inside the Virginia Beach Municipal Center Friday afternoon.

Christopher Kelly Rapp worked as an engineer in Virginia Beach's public works department for 11 months.

While Rapp had only been working for Virginia Beach for just under a year, he had much deeper roots in Powhatan County where he lived and previously worked.

Known for his love of bagpipes, Rapp played with the Greater Richmond Pipes and Drums in Richmond and most recently with the Tidewater Pipes and Drums.

Bandmate Christopher Pearcy said several of their band members work in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

Pearcy said he was frantically trying to get a hold of Rapp after the shooting, but he was unable to reach him. Rapp was one of 12 people killed during the shooting spree.

“It’s surreal. It’s out of this world,” said Pearcy. “I Can’t believe it. Can’t picture it, can’t imagine it. Just to think that he’s not going to be there. That’s going to be a rough the next couple of weeks.”

Pearcy described his friend as an honest person who always smiled.

"Chris was reserved but very friendly, quietly engaging members one-on-one after our weekly practices. Even though we didn't have time to get to know him better, we shared a love for music that created an immediate bond. More importantly, he showed up and worked hard, which is all you can ask for in group of amateur musicians," said Pearcy.

Music was something Rapp didn't just enjoy but it always set a smile on his face.

“If you’ve been in it, for just a short time or forever, once you join a pipe band, you’re in it for life. It really is a fraternity,” said Pearcy. “He always had a smile on his face. He never complained about anything...never took anything personally.”

Chris leaves behind his wife Bessie and his parents Mike and Patty Rapp.

Tidewater Pipes and Drums says they plan to be at Rapp’s funeral to give him a proper send off. Details on Rapp’s funeral have not yet been released.

The County of Powhatan released a statement Monday expressing sadness about the shooting and the death of Rapp who they described as an “exceptional employee.”

“We are deeply saddened by the senseless and tragic loss of 12 of our fellow public servants in Virginia Beach City Government. We stand in solidarity and support of our colleagues and ask for peace and healing for all involved.

Tragically, one of the victims, a longtime resident of Powhatan County, Christopher Rapp, was one of our own having previously worked for Powhatan County Public Works Department for 8 years. Chris was an exceptional employee of excellent character and a kind and compassionate co-worker. His contributions to our community include the Fighting Creek Park Complex and the Huguenot Public Safety Building. We have offered support to employees that may be having a difficult time coping with this tragic event, and will be allowing employees to attend memorial services for Chris as they choose.

All of the victims' families, friends and co-workers are in our thoughts and we will continue to offer support locally as well as to the City of Virginia Beach as any needs arise in the coming days.”

Rapp was former Powhatan utilities director

Former County Administrator Carolyn Bishop hired Rapp for the position in 2007 not only because he was well-qualified, but because she said he was a "nice, kind soul."

"The real reason I hired him is because I could tell he was a very honest, kind, ethical person," she said. "He just always smiled. He was very helpful."

In addition, Bishop said she eventually became friends with Rapp and his wife.

"They were such a close-knit couple and they traveled all over the world together," she said.

Neighbors 'in shock'

Ann Hatcher was saddened to learn of her neighbor's death Saturday morning.

"[I'm] in shock. I mean, we know death can come at any time, but to answer the door and find out our neighbor was one of the less fortunate ones," Ann Hatcher said. "This is a big loss."

Ann Hatcher said she cannot stop thinking about Rapp's wife as the couple would often take walks around the neighborhood.

"We just pray for the families of these victims and continue to pray and ask God that violence can stop," Hatcher said.

Hatcher's husband, Gene, said Rapp visited him frequently over the last few years as he recovered from a brain injury.

"He would stop by to see me from time to time, especially after this happened and so I really appreciated that," Gene Hatcher remembered.

Rapp graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering from Old Dominion University in 1994, according to the school.

Gene Hatcher also knew Rapp before he was as an engineer with Virginia Beach when he served as director of utilities and general services in Powhatan County.

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