CHESAPEAKE, VA– After an ordinary day’s work at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia ends deadly, survivors and investigators spend the Thanksgiving holiday questioning the motive of an employee who opened fire on co-workers, killing six before fatally turning the gun on himself directed.
Employees were preparing for a night shift when a manager opened fire with a pistol in the break room just after 10 p.m., officials said.
Authorities identified those killed as Randy Blevins, 70, Lorenzo Gamble, 43, Tyneka Johnson, 22, Brian Pendleton, 38, Kellie Pyle, 52, and a 16-year-old boy, who is not named because he is a minor.
Four people injured in the shooting remained hospitalized on Thanksgiving Eve, at least two of whom were in critical condition, Dr. Michael Hooper, Chief Medical Officer of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
“I know this community and I know it well, and I know that we will come together and help the families of the victims,” Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said in a video message Wednesday.
The shooting, another example of how horrifying gun violence is turning American life upside down in the most conventional of settings, has left many mourners at the loss of loved ones 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 murders.
Donya Prioleau was in the staff break room when the gunman began shooting at staff, she said.
“We don’t know what prompted him to do this,” Prioleau said. “None of us can understand why it happened.”
The shooter was identified as Andre Bing, who worked as a “team leader” overnight. The 31-year-old has worked for Walmart since 2010, the company said.
Bing shot three of Prioleau’s friends before I ran. Half of us didn’t believe it was real until some of us saw all the blood on the floor,” she said.
Two dead victims and the gunman were found in the break room, while another was found outside the store, Chesapeake City officials said, and three others died in hospital. Officials are trying to determine the exact number of injuries, as some people may have taken themselves to hospitals.
A motive for the shooting remained unclear Wednesday, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky said.
Tuesday’s violence marked at least the third mass shooting in Virginia this month, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and comes amid the grief many people across the country are enduring this Thanksgiving Day as loved ones were lost or injured in shootings.
Just 170 miles west of Chesapeake, a 22-year-old student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville allegedly opened fire on November 13 at fellow students, killing three of them on a bus returning to campus from a field trip to Washington, DC.
Over the weekend, a 22-year-old man shot dead five people and injured 19 others at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, authorities said.
Overall, the US has suffered more than 600 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Both the nonprofit and CNN define mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot dead, not counting the attacker.
“I stayed so they wouldn’t be alone”
In Chesapeake, the horror began less than an hour before the store was due to close after a busy day of Christmas shopping.
Jessie Wilczewski, who was recently hired, told CNN she was in a regularly scheduled meeting in the break room when she saw the gunman in the doorway pointing a gun.
At first she didn’t believe what she was seeing was real, but then she felt her chest pounding and her ears ringing as a barrage of gunfire erupted, she said. At first, she “didn’t register as real,” she said, until the sound of the gunshots echoed through her chest.
Wilczewski hid under a table as the shooter walked down a nearby hallway. She could see some of her colleagues lying on the floor or in chairs – all still and some probably dead, she said. She stayed because she didn’t want to leave her alone.
“I could have run out of that door… and I stayed. I stayed so they wouldn’t be alone in their final moments,” Wilczewski said in a message to the families of two victims.
When the shooter returned to the break room, Wilczewski said he told her to come out from under the table and go home.
“I had to touch the door that was covered (in blood),” she said. “I just remember packing my bag and thinking, ‘If he wants to shoot me in the back – well, he’s going to have to try really hard because I’m running’, and I booked it. … and I didn’t stop until I got to my car and then had a breakdown.”
Briana Tyler, also a newly hired employee, had just started her shift when the shooting broke out.
“All of a sudden you just hear pa pa pa pa pa pa pa,” Tyler told CNN, adding that she saw bullets inches from her face. “There wasn’t a pause between them where you could really try to process it.”
The shooter had a “blank look on his face” as he looked around the room and was shooting at people, Tyler said.
“There were people who just fell to the ground,” she said. “Everyone was screaming, gasping for air and yes he just walked away after that and just kept going through the store and just kept shooting.”
What we know about the suspect
The shooter had a history of disturbing behavior, other employees said.
Shaundrayia Reese, who worked with the shooter from 2015 to 2018, described him as a loner.
“He always said the government was watching him. He disliked social media and kept black tape on his phone camera. Everyone always thought there was something wrong with him,” Reese said.
Joshua Johnson, a former maintenance worker at the store, said the gunman made ominous threats if he were ever to lose his job.
“He said if he was ever fired from his job he would get revenge and people would remember who he was,” Johnson said.
Neither Johnson nor Reese have reported any concerns about Bing to management, they said.
In a statement, Walmart said it is cooperating with local law enforcement in the investigation.
“We feel tragedies like this personally and deeply. But this one is particularly painful as we learned the shooter was a Walmart employee,” John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart US, said in a statement. “The entire Walmart family is heartbroken. Our hearts and prayers are with those affected.”
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https://6abc.com/walmart-virginia-shooting-chesapeake/12489382/ Virginia Walmart mass shooting: Witness says gunman told her to go home