After an ordinary day at Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, survivors and investigators are spending the Thanksgiving holiday questioning the motive of an employee who opened fire on his colleagues, killing six before turning the gun on himself.
Workers were preparing to shift on Tuesday night when a manager opened fire in the break room just before 10 p.m., officials said.
Authorities identified the victims as Randy Blevins, 70, Lorenzo Gamble, 43, Tyneka Johnson, 22, Brian Pendleton, 38, Kellie Pyle, 52, and a 16-year-old boy, who has not been named because he is a minor.
Two people injured in the shooting were hospitalized in critical condition on Thanksgiving, and one of the victims was released Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital said.
“I know this area, and I know it well. And I know we will come together and support the families affected,” Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said Wednesday in a video message.
The shooting, yet another example of how horrific gun violence is affecting American life in public spaces, has left many grieving the loss of loved ones and survivors traumatized by what they witnessed. As the long journey to solve the mystery begins, questions about what may have led to the killing linger.
Ms. Prioleau was inside the employee lounge when the gunman began shooting her colleagues, she said.
Prioleau said: “We don’t know what made him do this.” “None of us can understand why it happened.”
The shooter was identified as Andre Bing, who worked as a “team leader” throughout the night. The 31-year-old has worked at Walmart since 2010, the company said. Authorities say he was in possession of one handgun with an automatic weapon and several ammunition 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,” he said.
Two people killed by the shooter were found in the restroom, one victim was found in front of the store, and three others died at the hospital, Chesapeake city officials said. Officials were still trying to determine the number of injured as some people may have taken themselves to hospital.
The mayor plans to hold a vigil Monday evening at City Park, according to the tweet from the city.
“Today we are only looking at the victims of what happened on Tuesday, but the police investigation is still ongoing and we hope to have more information tomorrow,” he said on Thursday.
The motive for the shooting was not yet known Thursday, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky said.
This week’s violence was at least the third mass shooting in Virginia this month, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and it comes after many Americans around the country endured this Thanksgiving when 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 his fellow students on November 13, killing three of them on a bus returning to school from a trip to Washington, DC.
Over the weekend, a 22-year-old shot and killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and injured 19 others, authorities said. And six months ago on Thursday, a robber in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 students and two teachers, a tragedy that the victims are still looking for answers.
“How are you celebrating when you have been destroyed?” How do you give thanks when you have nothing to offer. How do you fake it and smile when you wake up crying,” Brett Cross wrote Thursday about his niece, Uziyah Garcia, who was killed in Uvalde.
Overall, the US has suffered more than 600 mass shootings 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, not including the killer.
Speaking of the plague, in Arizona Former US President Gabby Giffords, who was seriously injured in the 2011 mass shooting. tweeted Thanksgiving Eve’s plea for change: “We cannot continue to be a nation of gun violence and mass shootings.” We cannot live like this. We have to do something. ”
In Chesapeake, the horrors began less than an hour before the store closed after a busy holiday day.
Jessie Wilczewski, who was recently hired, told CNN that she was at a regular meeting in the restroom when she saw the shooter at the door pointing a gun.
At first, he didn’t think what he was seeing was real, but then he felt his chest pounding and his ears ringing like a gunshot, he said. At first, he said: “It was not known that it was true, until the sound of the shot was heard in his chest.”
Wilczewski hid under a table as the gunman walked down a nearby street. He could see some of his co-workers on the floor or lying on the couches — all still alive and some dead, he said. They stayed because they didn’t want to leave them alone.
“I could have gone out of that door… and I stayed. I stayed so that they would not be alone in their last moments,” said Mr. Wilczewski in his speech to the families of the two victims.
When the shooter returned to the restroom, Wilczewski said, he told her to get out from under the table and go home.
“I had to touch the door that was covered in blood (and blood),” he said. “I just remember grabbing my bag and thinking, ‘If they shoot me in the back – well, let them try because I’m running,’ and I backed up. … and I didn’t stop until I got to my car and I was confused.
Briana Tyler, also a freelancer, had just started her shift when the gunfire started.
“All of a sudden you hear pa pa pa pa pa,” Tyler told CNN, adding that he saw bullets flying just inches from his face. “There wasn’t a break between them where you could try to fix it.”
The shooter had a “blank face” as he looked around the room and shot people, Tyler said.
“There were people who just fell down,” he said. “Everybody was screaming, breathing, and yes, they just walked away after that and just kept going through the store and just kept shooting.”
The shooter had shown disturbing behavior in the past, other employees said.
Shaundrayia Reese, who worked with the shooter from 2015 to 2018, described him as lonely.
“He always said that the government was watching him. He didn’t like social media and kept black tape on his phone camera. Everyone thought something was wrong with him,” Reese said.
Joshua Johnson, a former store manager, said the gunman threatened to fire him.
“He said if he was fired, he would give back and people would remember who he was,” Johnson said.
Hear the Walmart employee who witnessed the shooting tell the manager’s story
Neither Johnson nor Reese reported Bing’s concerns to management, he said.
In a statement, Walmart said it is working with local law enforcement on the investigation.
“We feel pain like this personally and deeply. But this is especially painful because we have learned that the shooter was a Walmart associate,” Walmart US President and CEO John Furner said in a statement. “The entire Walmart family is heartbroken. Our hearts and prayers are with those affected. ”