(CNN) — After an ordinary work day turns tragic at a Chesapeake, Virginia, Walmart, survivors and investigators spend Thanksgiving trying to figure out why an employee opened fire on his co-workers, killing six people earlier. to take his life.
The employees were preparing for a night shift when a manager opened fire with a pistol in the break room just after 10 p.m., authorities said.
Authorities identified the deceased as Randy Blevins, 70; Lorenzo Gamble, 43; Tyneka Johnson, 22; Brian Pendleton, 38; Kellie Pyle, 52, and a 16-year-old boy, whose name has not been revealed because he is a minor.
Two people injured in the shooting remained hospitalized in critical condition on Thanksgiving Day, while another was released Wednesday, a spokesman for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital said.
“I know this community and I know it well. And I know we will come together and lend a hand to the families of the victims,” Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said Wednesday in a video message.
The shooting, yet another example of how horrific gun violence disrupts the lives of Americans in the most conventional settings, has left many grieving the loss of loved ones and survivors traumatized by what they witnessed. As the long journey to process those emotions begins, questions linger about what might have preceded the murders.
Donya Prioleau was inside the employee break room when the gunman began shooting at his co-workers, he said.
“We don’t know what led him to do this,” Prioleau said. “None of us can understand why it happened.”
Authorities identified the shooter as Andre Bing, who was working as a “crew leader” overnight. The 31-year-old man had been a Walmart employee since 2010, the company said.
Bing shot three of Prioleau’s friends “before running off. Half of us didn’t believe this was real until some of us saw all the blood on the ground,” he said.
Two dead victims and the shooter were found in the break room, while another was found in the front of the store, Chesapeake city authorities said. Three others died at the hospital. Officials are trying to determine the exact number of injured, as some people may have reached hospitals on their own.
The motive for the shooting remained unclear Wednesday, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky said.
Tuesday’s mass shooting was at least the third to occur in Virginia this month alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and it comes amid the grief that many people across the country are facing this Thanksgiving over the loss of loved ones or those injured in shootings.
Just about 140 miles west of Chesapeake, a 22-year-old student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville allegedly opened fire on his classmates on November 13, killing three of them on a bus returning to campus from a business trip. studies to Washington.
Over the weekend, a 22-year-old shot and killed five people at a Colorado Springs, Colo., LGBTQ nightclub and wounded 19 others, according to authorities. And six months ago, a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 students and two teachers, a tragedy for which victims continue to search for answers.
“How do you celebrate when you are devastated? How do you say thank you when you no longer have anything to deliver? How do you pretend and smile when you wake up crying?” Brett Cross wrote this Thursday about his nephew, Uziyah García, murdered in Uvalde.
In all, the United States has suffered more than 600 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Both the nonprofit organization and CNN define mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot, not including the assailant.
In connection with the epidemic, former US Representative Gabby Giffords, who was critically injured in a 2011 mass shooting, tweeted on Thanksgiving eve calling for reform: “We can no longer be the nation of gun violence and shootings. massive. We cannot live like this. We must act.”
“I stayed so they wouldn’t be alone”
In Chesapeake, the horror began less than an hour before the store closed after a busy day of holiday shopping.
Jessie Wilczewski, who had recently been hired, told CNN she was in a regular meeting in the break room when she saw the shooter in the doorway pointing a gun.
At first, he didn’t believe what he was seeing was real, but then he felt his chest pounding and his ears ringing as a torrent of gunfire erupted, he said. At first, “I didn’t think it was real,” she said, until the sound of gunshots echoed in his chest.
Wilczewski hid under a table as the shooter walked down a nearby hallway. He could see some of his coworkers on the floor or lying on chairs, all motionless and some likely dead, he said. He stayed because he didn’t want to leave them alone.
“I could have run out that door … and I stayed. I stayed so they wouldn’t be alone in their last moments,” Wilczewski said in a message to the families of two victims.
When the shooter returned to the break room, Wilczewski said, he told him to get out from under the table and go home.
“I had to knock on the door that was covered (in blood),” he said. “I just remember grabbing my bag and thinking, ‘If he’s going to shoot me in the back, well, he’s going to have to try really hard because I’m running,’ and I ran… and I didn’t stop until I got to my car and then it was that I broke”.
Briana Tyler, an employee who was also recently hired, had just started her shift when the shooting began.
“All of a sudden you hear the thump thump thump,” Tyler told CNN, adding that he saw the bullets flying just inches from his face. “There wasn’t a pause between them to really try to process it.”
The shooter had a “vacant look” as he looked around the room and shot at people, Tyler said.
“There were people who were throwing themselves to the ground,” he said. “Everybody was screaming, he was short of breath, and yeah, he walked away after that and continued all over the store and kept shooting.”
What we know about the suspect
The attacker displayed disruptive behavior in the past, other employees said.
Shaundrayia Reese, who worked with the attacker from 2015 to 2018, described him as a lonely person.
“He always said the government was watching him. He didn’t like social media and covered his camera phone with black tape. Everyone always thought there was something wrong with him,” Reese said.
Joshua Johnson, a former maintenance worker at the store, said the shooter had threatened action if he ever lost his job.
“He said if he ever got fired from his job, he would retaliate and people would remember who he was,” Johnson said.
Neither Johnson nor Reese informed management of any concerns about Bing, they said.
In a statement, Walmart said it was working with local authorities on the investigation.
“We feel tragedies like this personally and deeply. But this one is especially painful as we know the shooter was an associate of Walmart,” Walmart US President and CEO John Furner said in a statement. “The entire Walmart family is heartbroken. Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected.”
— Chris Boyette, Amanda Jackson, Paul P. Murphy, David Williams, Holmes Lybrand, Michelle Watson, Holly Yan, Ariane de Vogue, John Miller, Caroll Alvarado, Curt Devine, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Paradise Afshar, Christina Maxouris, Dave Alsup, Joe Sutton, Braden Walker, Lauren Koenig, Brian Todd, and Josh Campbell contributed to this reporting.