CHESAPEAKE, VA. — A 31-year-old Walmart employee fatally shot six co-workers inside the store where he worked on Tuesday night before taking his own life, police and the company said, restarting a ritual of horror, grief and recrimination with which Americans have grown familiar as they repeatedly absorb the news of mass killings, this one carried out as many were preparing to gather with loved ones for Thanksgiving.
Armed with a handgun and several magazines, Andre M. Bing, a supervisor at a Walmart in this Tidewater Virginia city of about 250,000, entered the store and opened fire, authorities said. He targeted co-workers in a break room, according to police and witness accounts. That room was where officers, responding to reports of an active shooter around 10:15 p.m., found Bing dead, along with two victims.
Another victim was found dead at the front of the store, and three others died after being taken to a hospital. At least seven more were injured, three by gunfire. About 50 people were in the store at the time of the attack, authorities said.
The shooting in Chesapeake — a former agricultural hub whose population has soared over the past two decades — comes as the country is trying to process other shootings, including the killing of five people at a Colorado nightclub four days ago and of three University of Virginia students at the conclusion of a class trip 10 days ago.
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As in the wake of those still-fresh tragedies, expressions of anger or heartbreak, of prayerful condolences or steely gun-control advocacy, were resounding across the country by late Wednesday morning. Above all, perhaps, there rose a sense of helplessness, as yet another community saw its name entered in the annals of mass gun violence.
Chesapeake Mayor Rick West — a lifelong resident who was 10 when the city was incorporated in 1963 — said he understands the sentiments of constituents who say they never would have expected a mass killing here. But he said it would be naive not to acknowledge the reality of America in 2022: A shooter could end the lives of large numbers of people at any moment, anywhere.
“I’m not completely shocked,” West said. “I don’t see a pattern where I would say, ‘Okay, I’m looking at all these dots on the map to see where these mass shootings are taking place. Now where am I going to go to make sure I don’t become the next dot?’”
Late Wednesday, police identified the victims as Lorenzo Gamble, Brian Pendleton, Kellie Pyle, Randall Blevins and Tyneka Johnson. Authorities did not release the name of a sixth victim, a 16-year-old boy, because he was a minor.
The FBI is helping local police with the investigation into Bing’s background and possible motives. Early Wednesday, Chesapeake officers searched Bing’s residence, a three-bedroom house with a closely mowed lawn abutting Interstate 464 that he bought in 2019, according to Chesapeake tax records. They said the Walmart would probably remain closed for several days as investigators collect evidence and analyze the crime scene.
Customers and workers who were in the Walmart, along a busy commercial strip, described a terrifying and frantic scene as gunfire broke a quiet spell shortly before closing time.
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Jeromy Basham, a manager at a solar company, was picking up supplies for a Thanksgiving luncheon for his employees on Tuesday night. He was debating which tablecloths to buy when he heard gunshots. At first he thought someone might have knocked over metal shelving with a forklift.
“It was so loud,” said Basham, 47. “But then everything was completely silent.”
Seconds later, he saw people sprinting down the aisles.
“There’s a shooter!” they yelled. “Run!”
He and others found an emergency door that led them to the parking lot. Some sought shelter behind shipping containers. Basham, hiding behind trees and metal racks in front of the building, saw police rush into the store with their guns drawn.
Soon after, authorities started to bring out those who were shot.
Basham spotted someone administering CPR to a person on the ground. He saw another body wheeled out in a shopping cart by two people. A third body went by on a stretcher.
“None of them moved,” Basham said.
Kevin Harper, a 34-year-old stocker, said he left the break room about five minutes before Bing entered. When he heard shots and saw “everybody running,” he jumped into the center of a circular clothes rack. But after a moment — and not knowing where the gunman was — Harper decided to take his chances and flee the building.
“If I got hit, I got hit,” he said later. “It just felt like forever to get out of there.”
Harper said Bing was his supervisor, but he didn’t know the man well. Bing had a reputation as a by-the-book type, but nothing out of the ordinary, Harper said.
“He was a nitpick, but you’ve got those type of managers,” he said. “Little stuff — he’d write you up, you know, if you don’t finish stuff. But I ain’t hate the man. We didn’t get in no arguments or stuff like that.”
Speaking to The Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon at his home in Chesapeake, not far from the store, Harper said he had not slept since the shooting.
“I’m trying to mentally process it,” he said. “It’s a blur, in a way.”
Donya Prioleau, a Walmart worker, said she was in the store’s break room when Bing entered and shot three of her colleagues.
“Our manager came in our breakroom and shot half of friends and coworkers in front of us, without saying anything,” she wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. In an interview with The Post, Prioleau said she and others who worked the overnight shift were close associates.
“We’re family, because you spend most of the night together,” she said. “What happened last night was awful to see.”
Walmart said Wednesday afternoon that it was setting up a resource center for employees at a hotel nearby. For the next two weeks, the center will offer workers and their families “counseling, meals and a place to connect with each other” from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the company said in a statement.
Bing did not appear to have a criminal record or any traffic violations, according to online records for Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and federal courts. He also appeared to have no presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. Walmart officials and police confirmed he was a supervisor at the store.
Tire tracks from police vehicles could be seen across the front lawn at his house Wednesday. A neighbor, Vera McDuffie, said that as far as she knew, Bing lived alone in the house on East Eva Boulevard.
“Nobody that I knew knew anything about him,” said McDuffie, 65, who has lived in her house for more than three decades. She said the only time she saw Bing was when he cut his lawn.
“His yard is immaculate,” she said.
McDuffie said she frequently shops at the Walmart where Bing worked, but she did not know Bing worked at the store until she saw news of the shooting, which she said “makes me want to move.”
According to the Gun Violence Archive, not a single week in 2022 has passed without at least four mass shootings, which the group defines as an episode where four or more people, not including the assailant, are injured or killed.
President Biden condemned the Chesapeake shooting as “yet another horrific and senseless act of violence” and said he and the first lady would “mourn for all those across America who have lost loved ones to these tragic shootings.”
“There are now even more tables across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving,” Biden said in a statement. “There are now more families who know the worst kind of loss and pain imaginable.”
“Our hearts break with the community of Chesapeake this morning,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) said in a statement. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Youngkin — who on Saturday was attending a memorial in Charlottesville for the slain U-Va. students — said it was premature to begin discussing gun-control measures.
“When the facts come in at the end of all the investigations, then we’ll have time to come together and talk about what actions we can take,” he said.
State Sen. Ghazala F. Hashmi (D-Chesterfield), who represents the 10th District, urged the federal government to act quickly.
“Trauma upon trauma in Virginia. No other country in the world experiences mass shootings and gun violence in the way that we do,” she said. “It’s long past time for federal action.”
Among those struggling to understand the violence is Garnet Raby. She considers the Walmart her home — literally. The 70-year-old lives out of a minivan in the store’s parking lot.
Raby said she comes and goes from the store all day. Its workers are “really good people,” she said, and they gave her warm clothes as the weather turned. Their gifts included a white, quilted vest she wore Wednesday afternoon as she stood outside the store, trying to learn who had been shot.
Raby said she was one of several people who had regularly slept in their vehicles at Walmart since they were ousted from the parking lot at a Kohl’s nearby. She said her son, also homeless, lives in a part of the region with higher crime.
The Walmart had always seemed safe to her.
“This is just unreal for this area,” she said. “But it’s getting unreal everywhere.”
The following reporters contributed to The Washington Post’s coverage of this shooting: Katerina Ang, Nicole Asbury, Victoria Bisset, Cate Brown, Alice Crites, Karina Elwood, Jennifer Hassan, Dana Hedgpeth, Peter Hermann, Tom Jackman, Maham Javaid, Magda Jean-Louis, Jennifer Jenkins, Andrew Jeong, Lizzie Johnson, Marissa J. Lang, Lisa Lednicer, Jim Morrison, Hannah Natanson, Monika Mathur, Razzan Nakhlawi, Rachel Pannett, Azi Paybarah, Jaclyn Peiser, Andrea Salcedo, Gregory S. Schneider, Annabelle Timsit, Amy B Wang, Martin Weil.
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.