A 31-year-old overnight manager at Walmart shot and killed six people at a store bustling with Thanksgiving holiday shoppers before turning the pistol on himself, authorities said Wednesday, in America’s second high-profile mass shooting in four days.
Four other people remained hospitalized in unknown condition following the Tuesday night rampage in Chesapeake, Virginia, police chief Mark Solesky said.
The gunman is believed to have died of a “self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Solesky told reporters, adding that the motive behind the country’s latest outburst of gun violence was not yet known.
City authorities identified the shooter as Chesapeake resident Andre Bing, saying he was armed with one handgun and multiple magazines. Walmart confirmed in a statement that Bing was an overnight team lead, employed with the company since 2010.
An employee named Briana Tyler — who survived the attack — earlier described scenes of terror as the store manager entered a staff break room, and opened fire.
“He wasn’t aiming at anybody specifically,” Tyler told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “He just literally started shooting throughout the entire break room and I watched multiple people just drop down to the floor, whether they were trying to duck for cover or they were hit.”
She said the gunman looked right at her and fired but missed by mere inches. “He didn’t say a word, he didn’t say anything at all,” Tyler said.
The assault came two days before the quintessential American family holiday Thursday and on the heels of a weekend gun attack at an LGBTQ club in Colorado that killed five people.
And fewer than 10 days before this shooting in Chesapeake, Virginia, three students at the University of Virginia who played on its football team were killed November 13 by a classmate after a field trip.
President Joe Biden called the attack senseless and said “there are now even more tables across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving.”
– ‘Extremely crowded’ –
In the Walmart attack, emergency calls were first made just after 10:00 pm Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday) while the store was still open. Chesapeake is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of the US capital Washington.
Officers entered the store a few minutes later, Solesky said.
The shooter and two victims were found dead in the break room, while another body was found next to the front of the store, the city said. Three people taken to hospital with gunshot wounds later died.
The youngest of the victims was 16 years old, officials said.
Terri Brown, who was in the Walmart but left just before the shooting, said the store was packed with holiday shoppers.
“It was extremely crowded,” Brown told the local ABC affiliate 13NewsNow. “All of the checkouts were extremely busy. They had most registers open. There were long, long lines at the self-checkout.”
In the store parking lot on Wednesday, a makeshift memorial of flowers and small white electric candles sat against a tree beneath crime scene tape. White, blue and golden balloons tied to a tree blew in the wind.
Susan Neal Matousek came by the memorial display to “pay my condolences,” she told AFP.
“I couldn’t imagine losing someone right before Thanksgiving,” the 57-year-old retired teacher said.
Walmart said in a statement Wednesday the company is cooperating with law enforcement’s investigation and is “focused on doing everything we can to support our associates and their families.”
Gun attacks in grocery stores in America have become increasingly common in recent years. A teenage gunman killed 10 people, most of them Black, at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York in May.
Last year a shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado also left 10 dead. And in a particularly gruesome attack in 2019, a young gunman killed 23 and wounded 26 as he stalked shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
An advocacy group called Guns Down America has reported that from January 1, 2020 to May 14 of this year there were 448 “gun incidents” and 137 deaths at 12 large national retailers.
So far in 2022, the Gun Violence Archive website has tracked more than 600 mass shootings in the United States — defined as an incident with four or more people shot or killed, not including the shooter.
Tyler, the store employee, told ABC that the manager in question had a reputation as a difficult character.
“He was the manager to look out for because there was always something going on with him, just having an issue with someone,” she said. “I would’ve never thought he would do something like this.”