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 witnesses said Wednesday.
The gunman was found dead from what authorities believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark G. Solesky said. The shooting left at least six people wounded, including one critically.
The victims who died are identified as Lorenzo Gamble, Brian Pendleton, Kellie Pyle, Randall Blevins, and Tyneka Johnson. The sixth victim is a minor so his name is being withheld, the city of Chesapeake said in a statement.
One employee described watching “bodies drop” as the assailant fired haphazardly, without saying a word.
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“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," said Briana Tyler, a Walmart employee.
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 one team leader said: “All right guys, we have a light night ahead of us.” Then Bing turned around and opened fire on the staff.
At first, Tyler doubted the shooting was real, thinking that it was an active shooter drill.
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“It was all happening so fast,” she said, adding: “It is by the grace of God that a bullet missed me. I saw the smoke leaving the gun, and I literally watched bodies drop. It was crazy.”
The company identified the gunman as 31-year-old Andre Bing, a manager on the overnight shift at the Walmart Supercenter in Chesapeake. Walmart said in a statement that Bing had been employed with them since 2010.
The revelation came as investigators were searching the suspect's home and trying to establish a motive for the mass killing.
The store was busy just before the attack Tuesday night with people stocking up ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a shopper told a local TV station.
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 the gunman 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.
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 the gunman 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."
Tyler, who started at Walmart two months ago, said she never had a negative encounter with the shooter, but others told her that he was “the manager to look out for.” She said the gunman had a history of writing people up for no reason.
“He just liked to pick, honestly. I think he just looked for little things to go about, because he had the authority. That’s just the type of person that he was. That’s what a lot of people said about him,” she said.
Employee Jessie Wilczewski told NBC affiliate WAVY in Norfolk 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.
“It didn’t even look real until you could feel the ... ‘pow-pow-pow,’ you can feel it," Wilczewski said. “I couldn’t hear it at first because I guess it was so loud, I could feel it.”
A 911 call about the shooting in Chesapeake, which is Virginia’s second-largest city and lies next to the seaside communities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, came in just after 10 p.m. The store was open at the time, but Solesky didn’t know how many shoppers were inside or whether the gunman was working that shift.
Asked whether there was a security guard present, the police chief said he didn’t know.
Chesapeake Mayor Rick W. West expressed gratitude for first responders’ quick actions and said he was “devastated by the senseless act of violence."
“Chesapeake is a tight-knit community, and we are all shaken by this news,” West said in a statement on Twitter.
One man was seen wailing at a hospital after learning that his brother was dead, and others shrieked as they left a conference center set up as a family reunification center, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin tweeted Wednesday morning that he was in contact with law enforcement officials and said he would make resources available as the investigation moves forward.
“Our hearts break with the community of Chesapeake this morning,” Youngkin wrote. “Heinous acts of violence have no place in our communities.”
President Joe Biden tweeted that he and the first lady were grieving for the victims' families. “We mourn for those who will have empty seats at their Thanksgiving table because of these tragic events – we must take greater action.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said in a tweet that he was “sickened by reports of yet another mass shooting, this time at a Walmart in Chesapeake.”
Walmart said in a statement that it was working with law enforcement and “focused on doing everything we can to support our associates and their families.”
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. Earlier in the year, the country was shaken by the deaths of 21 when a gunman stormed an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Tuesday’s shooting also brought back memories of another at a Walmart in 2019, when a gunman police say was targeting Mexicans opened fire at a store in El Paso, Texas, and killed 23 people.
In the aftermath of that shooting, the company made a decision in September 2019 to discontinue sales of certain kinds of ammunition and asked that customers no longer openly carry firearms in its stores.
It stopped selling handgun ammunition as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military style weapons. Walmart also discontinued handgun sales in Alaska.
The company stopped selling handguns in the mid-1990s in every state but Alaska. The latest move marked its complete exit from that business and allowed it to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only.
Many of its stores are in rural areas where hunters depend on Walmart to get their equipment.
Source: The Gun Violence Archive