Walmart mass shooting: Motive behind Chesapeake, Virginia attack unclear



CNN

After an ordinary workday turned deadly at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, 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.

Employees were preparing for a night shift when a manager opened fire with a handgun in the break room just after 10 p.m., officials said.

Authorities identified the dead as Randy Blevins, 70, Lorenzo Gamble, 43, Tyneka Johnson, 22, Brian Pendleton, 38, Kelly Pyle, 52, and a 16-year-old boy, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor.

Two people injured in the shooting remained hospitalized in critical condition on Thanksgiving Day, and one injured victim was released Wednesday, a spokesman for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital said.

“I know this community, and I know it well, and I know we’re going to come together and lend a helping hand to the families of the victims,” ​​Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said in a video message Wednesday.

The shooting, yet another example of how horrific gun violence is upending the lives of Americans in the most conventional settings, left many grieving the loss of loved ones and survivors traumatized by what they witnessed. As the long journey of processing these emotions begins, questions about what could have led to the murders remain.

Doña Priolo was in the employee break room when the gunman began shooting at co-workers, she said.

“We don’t know what made him do that,” Priolo said. “None of us can understand why it happened.”

The shooter was identified as Andre Bing, who worked as a “crew leader” during the night. The 31-year-old has worked for Walmart since 2010, the company said.

Bing shot three of Priolo’s friends “before I ran away. Half of us didn’t believe it was real until some of us saw all the blood on the floor,” she said.

Two slain victims and the gunman were found in the break room, while another was found in the front of the store, Chesapeake City officials said, and three others died at the hospital. Authorities are trying to determine the exact number of injured, as some people may have taken themselves to hospitals.

A motive for the shooting remained unclear Wednesday, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Soleski said.

Tuesday’s violence is at least the third mass shooting in Virginia this month, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and comes amid grief many people across the country are experiencing this Thanksgiving as loved ones have been 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 fellow students Nov. 13, killing three of them on a bus returning to campus from a trip to Washington, D.C.

Over the weekend, a 22-year-old shot and killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., and wounded 19 others, authorities said. And six months ago Thursday, a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 students and two teachers, a tragedy in which victims are still searching for answers.

“How do you celebrate when you’re broke. How do you give thanks when you have nothing to give. How you pretend and smile when you wake up crying,” Brett Cross wrote Thursday about his nephew, Uzia Garcia, who was killed in Uvalde.

Overall, the U.S. has experienced 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, not including the shooter.

Speaking about the epidemic, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was seriously injured in a 2011 mass shooting, tweeted a call for reform on Thanksgiving Eve: “We cannot continue to be a nation of gun violence and mass shootings. We can’t live like this. We must act.”

In Chesapeake, the horror began less than an hour before the store closed after a busy holiday shopping day.

Jessie Wilczewski, who was recently hired, told CNN she was in a regularly scheduled meeting in the break room when she saw the shooter at the door pointing a gun.

At first she didn’t think what she was seeing was real, but then she felt her chest pounding and her ears ringing as a volley of gunshots rang out, she said. At first, it “didn’t register as real,” she said, until the sound of gunshots echoed in her chest.

Vilchevsky hid under a table while the shooter walked along a nearby corridor. She could see some of her colleagues on the floor or lying in chairs – all motionless and some possibly dead, she said. She stayed because she didn’t want me to leave them alone.

“I could have escaped through that door…and I stayed. I stayed so that they would not be alone in their last moments,” Vilczewski said in a message to the families of two victims.

When the shooter returned to the break room, Wilczewski said, he told her to get out from under the table and go home.

“I had to touch the door, which was all (in blood),” she said. “I just remember grabbing my bag and thinking, ‘If he’s going to shoot me in the back – well, he’s going to have to try really hard because I’m running,’ and I booked him.” … and I didn’t stop until I got to my car and then I crashed.”

Lashana Hicks (left) joins other mourners Wednesday at a memorial for those killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart Supercenter in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Brianna Tyler, also a newly hired employee, had just started her shift when gunfire erupted.

“All of a sudden you just hear pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa,” Tyler told CNN, adding that she saw bullets fly inches from her face. “It wasn’t a break in between where you can really try to process it .”

The shooter had a “blank look on his face” as he looked around the room and fired at people, Tyler said.

“There were people just falling to the floor,” she said. “Everybody was screaming, gasping, and yeah, he just walked away after that and just kept going around the store and just kept shooting.”

The shooter had exhibited some disturbing behavior in the past, other officials said.

Shondray Reese, who worked with the shooter from 2015 to 2018, described him as a loner.

“He always said the government was watching him. He didn’t like social media and kept a black band 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 ever lost his job.

“He said if he ever got fired from his job, he would get revenge and people would remember who he was,” Johnson said.

Neither Johnson nor Reese reported any concerns about Bing to management, they said.

In a statement, Walmart said it was working with local law enforcement in the investigation.

“We feel tragedies like this personally and deeply. But it is especially painful as 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.”

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