Cervera said the shooter was confronted shortly after opening fire on multiple floors. There was an exchange of gunfire with officers, the chief said.
A police officer whose ballistic vest stopped a bullet was injured, the police chief said.
Gordon Rago, a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot, said witnesses described the scene as “frantic.”
He said the shooting occurred when people were still visiting the municipal center to conduct business.
Witnesses told him that SWAT officers were running down the street, directing them to get inside.
“I’ve talked to people who said that they were hiding under their desks,” Rago said.
Police found a pistol and a rifle at the scene that investigators believe were used in the shooting, according to a law enforcement official.
The suspect is thought to have purchased the firearms legally, according to initial information that investigators have, the source says.
The mass shooting took place in Building 2 of the municipal center, according to police.
Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center houses the operations building for the city, which include multiple departments.
Six people were hospitalized after the shooting, hospital officials tweeted.
Virginia Beach General Hospital said there were five patients there. A patient who was at Princess Anne Hospital was being transferred to Norfolk General Hospital, a Level I trauma center.
The FBI is also responding to the incident to provide assistance to local authorities, an FBI spokeswoman told CNN reporters.