6 people gunned down by shooter at Virginia Walmart, police say
Shooter was Walmart employee, according to police in Chesapeake, Va.
A Walmart manager opened fire on fellow employees in the break room of a Virginia store, killing six people in the country's second high-profile mass shooting in four days, police and a witness said Wednesday.
The gunman, who apparently shot himself, was dead when police found him, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark G. Solesky said. There was no clear motive for the shooting, which also put four people in the hospital.
The store was busy just before the attack on Tuesday night as people stocked up ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a shopper told a local TV station.
U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the shooting in a statement.
"Because of yet another horrific and senseless act of violence, there are now even more tables across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving," Biden said in a statement released by the White House. "We must come together as a nation.… We must take greater action."
Employees scrambled for safety
Employee Briana Tyler said the overnight stocking team of 15 to 20 people had just gathered in the break room to go over the morning plan. She said the meeting was about to start, and a team leader said: "All right guys, we have a light night ahead of us," when another team leader, 31-year-old Andre Bing, turned around and opened fire on the staff.
"It is by the grace of God that a bullet missed me," Tyler said. "I saw the smoke leaving the gun, and I literally watched bodies drop. It was crazy."
Officials said on the city's Twitter account that three of the dead, including the gunman, were found in the break room. One of the slain victims was found near the front of the store. Three others were taken to hospitals where they died of their wounds.
Walmart said in a statement that the gunman was an overnight team leader and had been with the company since 2010.
At first, Tyler didn't think the shooting was real. "It was all happening so fast. I thought it was like a test type of thing. Like, if you do have an active shooter, this is how you respond."
Tyler, who worked with Bing just the night before, said he did not aim at anyone specific.
"He was just shooting all throughout the room. It didn't matter who he hit. He didn't say anything. He didn't look at anybody in any specific type of way."
Solesky confirmed that the shooter, who used a pistol, was a Walmart employee but did not give his name because his family had not been notified.
Local residents, politicians shocked
Employee Jessie Wilczewski told Norfolk, Va., television station WAVY that she hid under the table and the shooter looked at her with his gun pointed at her, told her to go home and she left.
Police said the dead included a 16-year-old boy whose name was being withheld because of his age. The other victims were identified as Brian Pendleton, 38; Kellie Pyle, 52; Lorenzo Gamble, 43; and Randy Blevins, 70, who were all from Chesapeake; and Tyneka Johnson, 22, of nearby Portsmouth.
It was not immediately clear whether they were workers or shoppers.
Walmart tweeted early Wednesday that it was "shocked at this tragic event."
"We're working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates," the Arkansas-based company said in a statement.
Our hearts break with the community of Chesapeake this morning. I remain in contact with law enforcement officials throughout this morning and have made available any resources as this investigation moves forward. Heinous acts of violence have no place in our communities.—@GovernorVA
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner said in a tweet that he was "sickened by reports of yet another mass shooting."
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin also expressed his condolences and said the state was prepared to assist with whatever resources were required in the investigation.
Chesapeake is Virginia's second-largest city and lies next to the seaside communities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
The attack at the Walmart came three days after a person opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado, killing five people and wounding 17.
It was also the second time in a little more than a week that Virginia has experienced a major shooting. Three University of Virginia football players were fatally shot in Charlottesville on a charter bus as they returned to campus from a field trip on Nov. 13.
Earlier in the year, the country was shaken by mass shootings at a Buffalo grocery store and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Those shootings motivated U.S. Congress members to pass the first significant gun control legislation at the federal level in years.
Walmart stores in the U.S. have seen mass shootings before, most notably in 2019 when a gunman who police say was targeting Mexicans opened fire at a store in El Paso and killed 23 people. The accused was arrested but has yet to face trial in that case.
In the aftermath of the El Paso shooting, Walmart made a decision in September 2019 to discontinue sales of certain kinds of ammunition. It also discontinued handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where it was still doing so.
Walmart does sell hunting rifles and related ammunition. Many of its stores are in rural areas where hunters depend on Walmart to get their equipment.