Chesapeake, Va. (AP) — A Walmart executive pulled out a gun before a routine employee meeting and began firing wildly into the cafeteria of a Virginia store, killing six people in the country’s second high-profile mass shooting in four days , police and witnesses said.
The gunman was killed when officers arrived at the store late Tuesday in Chesapeake, Virginia’s second-largest city. According to authorities, he apparently shot himself. Police tried to determine the motive. One employee described seeing “bodies falling” as the attacker fired randomly without saying a word.
“He just darted across the room. It didn’t matter who he hit. He said nothing. He didn’t look at anyone in a certain way,” Briana Tyler, a Walmart employee, said Wednesday. “
Six people were injured in the shooting, which occurred just after 10 p.m. as shoppers were out shopping in the run-up to Thanksgiving. According to police, there were about 50 people in the store at the time.
The shooter was identified as 31-year-old Andre Bing, a night shift team leader who had been employed by Walmart since 2010. Police said he had a handgun and several magazines of ammunition.
Tyler said a night shift of 15 to 20 people gathered in the break room to work on the morning plan. She said the meeting was about to start and one of the team leaders said, “Okay guys, we’ve got a light night ahead of us.” Byng then turned and opened fire on the employees.
At first, Tyler was skeptical that the shooting was real, thinking it was active target practice.
“It all happened so fast,” he said, “that it was by the grace of God that one bullet missed me. I saw smoke coming out of the gun and I literally saw bodies falling. This madness was.”
Police said the three deceased, including Bing, were found in the break room. One of the killed victims was found in front of the store. Three others were taken to hospital where they died.
Tyler, who started working at Walmart two months ago and had worked with Bing the night before, said she never had a negative encounter with him, but others told her to “watch out.” was the administrator”. He said Bing has a history of texting people for no reason.
“He just chose to be honest. I think he just pays attention to the little things… because he had authority. That was just the type of person he was. That’s what a lot of people said about him.” said,” she said.
Employee Jessie Wilczewski told Norfolk television station WAVY that she was hiding under a table, and Bing saw her and pointed his gun at her. He asked her to go home and she left.
Police said the dead included a 16-year-old boy whose name was not released due to his age. The other victims were identified as Brian Pendleton, 38; Kelly Pyle, 52; Lorenzo Gambling, 43; and Randy Blevins, 70, who were all from Chesapeake; and Tyneka Johnson, 22, from nearby Portsmouth.
It was not immediately clear whether they were workers or shopkeepers.
Pyle was a “sweet, generous and kind man,” said Gwendolyn Bowe Baker Spencer, who said her son and Pyle had plans to marry next year. Pyle had adult children in Kentucky who would travel to Virginia, Spencer said.
“We love her,” said Spencer, “she was a wonderful, kind person.”
The attack marked the second time in just over a week that Virginia had experienced a mass shooting. Three University of Virginia football players were fatally shot on November 13 on a charter bus as they were returning to campus from a field trip. Two other students were injured.
The Walmart attack came days after a man opened fire at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub, killing five people and injuring 17. Last spring, the country was rocked by the deaths of 21 people when a gunman attacked an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. ,
Tuesday night’s shooting also brought back memories of another attack on a Walmart in 2019, when a gunman in El Paso, Texas, opened fire on a store targeting Mexicans, killing 23 people.
A database from The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University shows that the number of mass murders in the US has risen to 40 since 2006. This is the highest compared to 45 in 2019. annual database, which defines a mass murder as killing at least four people, not counting the killer.
More than a quarter of the mass killings have occurred since Oct. 21, spanning eight states and claiming 51 lives, according to the database. Of those 11 incidents, nine were shootings.
President Joe Biden tweeted that he and the first lady were mourning, adding, “We mourn those who will have empty seats at the Thanksgiving table because of these tragic events.”
Kimberly Shupe, the mother of Walmart employee Jalon Jones, told reporters her 24-year-old son was shot in the back. He said he was in good shape and was talking on Wednesday, initially after being put on a ventilator.
Shupe said she learned about the shooting from a friend who went to a family reunification center to find out where Jones was.
“If he doesn’t answer his phone, doesn’t respond to texts and gets shot at for his job, you put two and two together,” Shupe said. “It was a shock at first, but in the end I just kept thinking, ‘He’ll be fine.'”
Walmart said in a statement it was cooperating with law enforcement and “we are focused on doing everything we can to support our employees and their families.”
After the El Paso shooting, the company decided to stop selling certain types of ammunition in September 2019 because customers no longer openly carried firearms in stores.
It stopped selling handgun ammunition used in military-style weapons such as .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber, as well as short-barreled rifle ammunition.
The company stopped selling handguns in every state except Alaska in the mid-1990s, where sales continued as of 2019. The changes marked a complete shutdown of that business and allowed Walmart to focus on shotguns and related ammunition.
Many of his stores are located in rural areas where hunters rely on Walmart to get their gear.
Tyler’s grandfather, Richard Tate, said he dropped his granddaughter off for her 10 p.m. shift, then parked the car and went to buy some dish soap.
When he first heard the gunshots, he thought it might be the sound of a balloon exploding. But soon he saw other customers and employees running away and so did he.
Tate reached his car and called his granddaughter.
“I could see she was upset,” he said. “But I could also see that she was alive.”
Contributors to this report were Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Chesapeake; Michael Kunzelman and Sarah Broomfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Virginia; Hannah Schoenbaum in Raleigh, North Carolina; Anne D’Inocenzio and Alexandra Olsson in New York; news researcher Rhonda Schaffner in New York; and video journalist Nathan Elgren in Chesapeake.
Alex Brandon and Ben Finley, The Associated Press