Families of Chesapeake Walmart shooting victims mourn their losses

Chesapeake Walmart shooting victims, top from left: Tyneka Johnson, Brian Pendleton and Randall Blevins. Bottom from left: Kellie Pyle and Lorenzo Gamble. (Chesapeake Police Department/AP)
9 min

Kellie Pyle had just moved back to her hometown and reconnected with her high school sweetheart. Lorenzo Gamble was supposed to be in charge of both the banana pudding cake and banana pudding for Thanksgiving dinner. Brian Pendleton was planning to work a shift at a job he loved after a meal with family.

The three co-workers were among six slain at a Chesapeake, Va., Walmart on Tuesday night, when authorities say a “team lead” opened fire on his colleagues.

All of those slain were employees of Walmart: Gamble. Pyle. Pendleton. Randall Blevins. Tyneka Johnson. A 16-year-old from Chesapeake whose name was not released because of his age.

At least 50 people were in the store at the time of the shooting. Some collected last-minute Thanksgiving groceries. Others worked through their overnight shifts for the giant retailer.

The killing came days after a man fatally shot five people at a Colorado LGBTQ club and less than two weeks after a 22-year-old University of Virginia student was charged in the killing of three students returning from a school trip.

Here’s what we know about those killed.

Lorenzo Gamble

Linda Gamble had been planning Thanksgiving dinner with her son, Lorenzo. The 43-year-old was in charge of both the banana pudding cake and banana pudding, at her request.

She reminded him to bake enough for their extensive family. With 16 grandchildren, she planned to pack their Chesapeake house for the holiday. Everyone would be together to eat and play family games, she said.

“I just wanted my boys to spend time with me,” Gamble said.

When she first heard the news of the shooting, Gamble called her son over and over, only to get the same result: no answer.

He must have dropped his phone running out of the store, she thought to herself. But the longer she went without hearing from him, the more she worried.

Her husband, Alonzo Gamble, spent much of the night at the Chesapeake Conference Center with other worried family members, waiting on answers on his son’s whereabouts. Then he received the news his family had feared: Lorenzo Antron Gamble had died in the shooting.

Lorenzo Gamble had worked at Walmart for 15 years, his mother said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. He loved spending time with his two sons, attending his 19-year-old’s football games and rooting for the Washington Commanders. His 10-year-old would cry whenever his father would leave — he just wanted to spend more time with his dad, Linda Gamble said.

“He just kept to himself and did his job,” she said. “He was the quiet one of the family.”

Alonzo Gamble echoed Linda’s remembrance of their son. He was quiet and reserved. He didn’t have too many friends, but he loved spending time with his two sons. He spent time on his silver black-top Mustang GT, changing the rims and keeping it running smoothly.

“I’m hoping he’s still alive and will come back,” Linda Gamble said through tears.

She went over to her son’s house Wednesday morning, trying to fathom the loss. Inside, before she neatly made his bed, she found all the ingredients for banana pudding sitting untouched on the counter.

Chesapeake area residents described tears and “heartbreak” when speaking to The Post about the deadly shooting at Walmart on Nov. 22. (Video: John Warner, Joy Yi/The Washington Post, Photo: Carlos Bernate/The Washington Post)

Kellie Pyle

Billy Pillar-Gibson feared for his cousin Kellie Pyle the moment news broke of the Walmart shooting. Pyle got a job at the Chesapeake Walmart recently, after moving back to her native Norfolk in May to be with the high school sweetheart with whom she had reconnected after a divorce.

Pillar-Gibson and his husband raced to Norfolk General Hospital, as did Pyle’s fiance, where they were told she was in surgery. But she was not there. As it turned out, Pillar-Gibson said, Pyle had died in the break room, a place he knew well because he had once worked at the store.

After years away in Indiana and Kentucky, Pyle — a grandmother at 52 — was thrilled to be living in the same city as Pillar-Gibson, who called her his best friend.

“We always said we were going to grow old together,” he said Wednesday night at his apartment not far from the store where she died. “None of this makes sense. In the whole scheme of things, we’re still young.”

Pillar-Gibson broke down as he described his cousin’s sarcastic sense of humor and the bonds they had forged growing up in a family with more than its share of quirky personalities, including “Nanny Catherine,” the fierce-tempered matriarch they adored and feared.

“We grew up in a crazy family, and we understood each other,” he said. “I don’t remember life without her.”

Pyle had two grown children and a 2-year-old granddaughter, and she was looking forward to sharing the holidays with family in Norfolk.

“It was going to be her first Thanksgiving here,” he said.

Brian Pendleton

Brian Pendleton, 39, was supposed to work at Walmart on Thursday after Thanksgiving dinner, said Michelle Johnson, his mother.

“I am in the kitchen now trying to do Thanksgiving for everybody as best I can,” Johnson said. “But it is such a different day. We all love Brian.”

Johnson said her son, who had a brain condition called congenital hydrocephalus, had been at Walmart for more than 10 years. He was a hard worker, she said,

“He loved his job,” his mother said. “I want everybody to know that he loved his job at Walmart. He loved the friends that he had there.”

Michelle Henry, who worked at the Walmart between 2016 and 2018, said she was stunned to see Pendleton’s name on the list of those killed.

“I thought I was going to faint when I saw Brian’s photo in a list of victims,” she said. “He was an outgoing, fun-loving person.”

Johnson said she wondered whether more could have been done to protect her son. Pendleton, she said, “did have some issues” with Andre Bing, the 31-year-old team lead who authorities say shot his colleagues before taking his own life.

“I feel like he had something against my son,” she said.

Johnson said her family planned to honor her son on Thanksgiving, sharing memories of his seat at the holiday table.

“It’s going to be different, but I’m still grateful to God,” she said. “I hate that this happened. I don’t know how to make sense of it, so I don’t try to.”

Tyneka Johnson

Casheba Cannon tutored Tyneka Johnson for her first two years at Western Branch High School. Cannon recalled her as a young person who dreamed of attending college and was willing to work through academic weaknesses to better herself, all with the backing of a supportive family.

“Education was in the forefront. Her family did whatever they had to do to make sure she got assistance,” Cannon recalled.

During weekly sessions, Johnson was always a fashionista, arriving with her hair and nails done, while displaying an ebullient personality and an affinity for music and dancing, Cannon said.

But the young woman also was willing to help younger students, and she “gelled” with anyone she came into contact with at Cannon’s Blessed Tutoring Services.

“She was that kid. When she came to tutoring, she was very well put together,” Cannon said. “Tyneka was a light in a dim room.”

Randall Blevins

Cassandra Yeatts, Randall Blevins’ stepdaughter, said Blevins, a kind and gentle man, had worked at the Chesapeake Walmart for 30 years. The store was his “Walmart family,” she said.

“He had the chance to retire for many years now, and he chose not to because he loved working there,” Yeattes said in a text message.

Former co-workers and friends echoed that feeling on Facebook. Blevins was “literally the sweetest man,” one former co-worker wrote. He “faithfully” stood by the front door, another remembered.

“There wasn’t any way anybody could have had a grudge against him,” said his cousin, Virgil Wimmer. “He’s the last one you’d expect something like this to happen to. There is absolutely nothing bad I could say about him, even if he was living.”

Cindy Smith, who worked with Blevins at Walmart from 2003 to 2005, recalled in an interview how Blevins would reach for the heaviest items when they were unloading trucks together, so that she didn’t have to carry too much. He also helped her pull heavy items out of the freezer.

“It’s hard to find people who were as helpful as Randy,” Smith said, describing him as a big brother to her at the store. “He was soft-spoken and kindhearted, and always there when you needed him.”

Blevins lived with and took care of his mother until she died five years ago at age 97, his cousin said. According to his stepdaughter, he planned on retiring next year.

“He really enjoyed spending time with me, mom, my sisters and his grandkids,” she said. “Loved it when we would just pick a place to go have lunch and walk around.”

Before the shooting, Blevins called Wimmer and told him they ought to talk more often. They hadn’t lived in the same place since Blevins was 6, but he wanted to keep in better touch.

“He said: ‘It’s not many of us left. We need to start talking to each other more often,’ ” Wimmer said. “I said, ‘You’re right. Let’s do that.’ It really hurts.”

Fernando Chavez-Barron

Police on Friday officially identified the youngest person slain in the shooting: 16-year-old Fernando Chavez-Barron. Family and friends held a memorial for him Thursday night in the Walmart parking lot, where they gathered with square silver balloons. The family declined an interview.

Vozzella reported from Chesapeake, Va. Jim Morrison in Chesapeake, Va., and Tom Jackman, in Washington, contributed to this report.

Mass killing at Walmart in Chesapeake, Va.

The latest: The Walmart supervisor who authorities say fatally shot six colleagues in Chesapeake, Va., before taking his own life had a note in his phone that railed against people he perceived to have harassed or betrayed him and hinted at what was to come.

Remembering the victims: The City of Chesapeake on Wednesday identified five of the six victims killed in the Walmart shooting. Their names are Lorenzo Gamble, Brian Pendleton, Kellie Pyle, Randall Blevins and Tyneka Johnson. The sixth victim is a 16-year-old, whose name is currently being withheld by authorities because he is a minor.

Who is the Walmart shooting suspect? Andre M. Bing was identified as the Walmart shooting suspect by police and the company. He was an overnight supervisor at the store.