CHESAPEAKE, Va., Nov 23 (Reuters) – A Walmart supervisor armed with a handgun and several magazines of ammunition opened fire on co-workers at a store in Virginia, killing six people before turning the gun on himself in a break room, witnesses and the police said on Wednesday.
The country’s latest mass shooting on Tuesday night rocked the town of Chesapeake, about 200 miles (320 km) south of Washington, and comes on the heels of last weekend’s massacre in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where a gunman killed five at an LBGTQ nightclub .
The gunman from Virginia, identified as Andre Bing, 31, of Chesapeake, said nothing as he opened fire on workers gathered before their overnight shift, according to two workers who were in the break room, where the standoff ended and Bing shoots himself.
“I just watched 3 of my colleagues/friends get killed in front of me,” Donya Prioleau wrote in a Facebook post. “Andre killed them in cold blood … I can’t see what happened in that cutting room.”
Police said at least three people were injured in the attack, which happened while about 50 people were inside the store, a cavernous Walmart complex just off Battlefield Boulevard in Chesapeake, a city of about 250,000 people.
The dead included a 16-year-old boy who police did not identify and 70-year-old Randy Blevins, who planned to retire within the year, a cousin wrote on Facebook.
The others were Kellie Pyle, 52, Lorenzo Gamble, 43, and Randy Blevins, 70, all from Chesapeake, and Tyneka Johnson, 22, from nearby Portsmouth.
Authorities say they are investigating what may have motivated Bing, an hourly employee who supervised an overnight shift and had worked for the company since 2010. The city said its SWAT team executed a search warrant at its house
“I looked up and my manager opened the door and he opened fire,” another Walmart employee, Briana Tyler, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Several Bing colleagues told CNN that he has exhibited strange and sometimes threatening behavior in the past. He also made paranoid comments, expressing concerns that the government was monitoring him, according to CNN interviews.
Jessie Wilczewski told WAVY-TV that she hid under a table and the shooter pointed the gun at her and told her to go home.
“It didn’t even look real until you could feel the pow-pow-pow. You can feel it,” said the store employee. “I couldn’t hear it at first because it was probably so loud. I could feel it.”
The latest massacre prompted a round of fresh condemnations from public officials and calls from activists for stricter gun control.
President Joe Biden called the shooting “another horrific and senseless act of violence,” citing a shooting this month that killed three University of Virginia students.
“There are now even more boards across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving,” Biden said in a statement.
On average, the United States has two mass shootings per day, defined as an incident that kills or injures four or more people, according to GunViolenceArchive.org.
Jessica Burgess, a surgeon treating victims at a hospital in Norfolk, said she had contacted a colleague in Colorado Springs just two days earlier to offer support.
“So it’s very heartbreaking that I’m now in the same situation with my colleagues from all over the country checking in on my team,” said Burgess. “Sometimes we can only do so much when the injuries are already done.”
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, already facing growing calls for policies to address gun violence after the University of Virginia killings, ordered flags at local, state and federal buildings to be flown at half-staff.
Walmart, which has thousands of stores across the country, has been hit by gun violence before.
In August 2019, 23 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, near the US-Mexico border in what law enforcement described as domestic terrorism. It was also the deadliest attack on the Hispanic community in the United States in modern times.
Walmart enacted new restrictions on gun and ammunition sales following that shooting in 2019, as it did after other shootings in its stores.
“The devastating news of last night’s shooting at our Chesapeake, VA store at the hands of one of our associates has hit our Walmart family hard,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Reporting by Rich McKay, Susan Heavey, Siddharth Cavale, Bharat Govind Gautam, Abinaya Vijayaraghavan and Shubham Kalia; Additional reporting by Juby Babu; Edited by Gareth Jones, Mark Porter, Bill Berkrot and Deepa Babington
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