Survivors and investigators are spending the Thanksgiving break after a fatal accident at a Chesapeake, Virginia, Walmart on an ordinary workday, questioning the motives of an employee who opened fire on a co-worker before shooting himself Killed 6 people.
A manager opened fire with a pistol in the break room just after 10 p.m. Tuesday as employees prepared for the night shift, officials said.
Authorities identified the victims as Randy Blevins, 70, Lorenzo Gamble, 43, Tynica Johnson, 22, Brian Pendleton, 38, and Kelly, 52. Pyle and a 16-year-old boy, who has not been named because he is a minor.
A spokeswoman for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital said two people were hospitalized on Thanksgiving in critical condition in connection with the shooting, and one injured victim was released Wednesday.
“I know this community, and I know it very well. I know we will come together and reach out to the families of the victims,” Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said in a video message Wednesday.
The shooting is yet another example of how horrific gun violence can upend American life in the most traditional settings, leaving many grieving the loss of a loved one and survivors traumatized by what they witnessed. As the long journey of processing these emotions begins, questions remain about what may have led to the killing.
She said Donya Prioleau was in the employee break room when the gunman began shooting colleagues.
“We don’t know what made him do it,” Prioleau said. “None of us can understand why this is happening.”
The gunman has been identified as Andre Bing, the “team leader” who worked through the night. The 31-year-old employee has worked at Walmart since 2010, the company said. Authorities said he had a semi-automatic pistol and several magazines.
“Bing shot three of Prioleau’s friends before I started running. Half of us didn’t believe it was real until some of us saw all the blood on the floor,” she said.
Chesapeake City officials said two slain victims and the gunman were found in the lounge, another victim was found in front of the store, and three others died at the hospital. Officials are still trying to determine the exact number of injuries, as some may have made it to the hospital on their own.
The mayor plans to hold a vigil Monday night in city parks, according to a tweet from the city.
“Today we are only concerned with those injured in Tuesday’s tragic incident, but the police investigation continues and we hope to have more information tomorrow,” officials said in a tweet on Thursday.
The motive for the shooting remained unclear Thursday, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solsky said.
This week’s violence was at least the third mass shooting in Virginia this month, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and comes against the backdrop of many Americans across the country grieving this Thanksgiving as loved ones died in killed or injured in the shooting.
About 170 miles west of the Chesapeake, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student in Charlottesville allegedly opened fire on fellow students on Nov. 13, killing three of them on a bus returning to campus from a field trip in Washington, D.C.
A 22-year-old man shot and killed five people and wounded 19 at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., over the weekend, authorities said. Six months ago, a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvaldi, Texas, on Thursday, a tragedy whose victims are still seeking answers.
“How do you celebrate when you’re devastated. How do you say thank you when you have nothing to give. How do you fake it and smile when you wake up crying,” Brett Cross said on Thursday about his Nephew Uzia García wrote that he was killed in Uvaldi.
There have been more than 600 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Both the nonprofit and CNN define a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, excluding the attacker.
Speaking of the epidemic, Arizona Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords was seriously injured in the 2011 mass shooting, tweets Call for reform ahead of Thanksgiving: “We cannot continue to be a nation of gun violence and mass shootings. We cannot live like this. We must act.”
In Chesapeake, the horror began less than an hour before stores were due to close after a busy holiday shopping day.
Jessie Wilczewski, a recent hire, told CNN she was in a regular meeting in the break room when she saw the gunman at the door with a gun.
At first, she didn’t think what she was seeing was real, but as a burst of gunfire erupted, she felt her chest pounding and her ears ringing, she said. At first, it “wasn’t recorded as real,” she said, until the gunshot echoed in her chest.
Wilczewski ducked under a table as the gunman walked down a nearby hallway. She said she could see some of her colleagues lying on the floor or in chairs – all motionless, some possibly dead. She stayed because she didn’t want to leave them alone.
“I could have run out that door…but I stayed. I stayed so they wouldn’t be alone in their last moments,” Wilczewski said in a message to the families of the two victims.
When the gunman returned to the break room, he told her to get out from under the table and go home, Wilczewski said.
“I had to touch that (blood-stained) door,” she said. “I just remember grabbing my bag and thinking, ‘If he’s going to shoot him in the back — well, he’s going to have to work really hard because I’m running,’ and I booked it. … until I got in the car , I just stopped, and then I broke down.”
Briana Tyler, also a newly hired employee, had just started her shift when the gunshots erupted.
“Suddenly, all you hear is smack, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap Clap clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack clack ” this is not interrupt between them so that you can actually try to deal with it. ”
Taylor said the shooter had “a blank look on his face” as he looked around the room and shot at people.
“Someone just fell to the ground,” she said. “Everyone was screaming and gasping and yeah, he just walked away after that and kept going through the store and kept shooting.”
Other employees said the shooter had displayed some disturbing behavior in the past.
Shaundrayia Reese, who worked with the shooter from 2015 to 2018, described him as a loner.
“He’s always saying the government is watching him. He doesn’t like social media, he puts vinyl on his phone camera. Everyone thinks there’s something wrong with him,” Rees said.
Joshua Johnson, a former maintenance worker at the store, said the gunman made ominous threats if he lost his job.
“He said that if he got fired, he would retaliate and people would remember who he was,” Johnson said.
Hear Walmart employee who witnessed shooting describe manager’s reputation
Neither Johnson nor Reese reported any concerns about Bing to management, they said.
In a statement, Walmart said it was cooperating with local law enforcement in the investigation.
“We feel this tragedy personally and deeply. But this one is especially poignant because we learned the shooter was a Walmart employee,” Walmart of America President and CEO John Verner said in a statement. “The entire Walmart family is heartbroken. Our hearts and prayers are with those affected.”