Last week’s tragic shooting at a Walmart Superstore in Virginia provides yet another example of the catastrophic events plaguing the country as troubled minds act out their frustrations in the most horrific of terms. Pointing a gun and pulling the trigger has somehow become a twisted form of salvation for far too many weak and confused individuals, and it’s well past time to stand up and take notice. Here we break down what turns out to be the latest in a series of heartbreaking events, summarized from news sources across the country:
- According to police, at least 50 people were inside the Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia when violence erupted. The deadly rampage started around 10:12 pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, less than an hour before the Walmart Supercenter was set to close.
- Employees reported that the overnight stocking team of 15 to 20 people had just gathered in the break room of the store to review the stocking plan for the evening. That’s when Andre Bing, a Walmart employee, pulled out a handgun and began firing wildly around the break room, killing six people before turning the gun on himself. At least six additional people were transported to local hospitals for treatment, one of whom remains in critical condition. The shooter was an overnight team lead and had been employed with Walmart since 2010, the company said in a statement. Accounts indicate he was armed with a 9 mm handgun and had multiple magazines on his person.
- Police response was swift and responsive. The first officer arrived on scene within two minutes. They coordinated with a tactical team and officers entered the store roughly two minutes after that, around 10:16 pm. One victim was found inside near the entrance to the store. Two victims were found in the breakroom, along with the shooter, who allegedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Three additional victims succumbed to their injuries and died after being transported to the hospital.
- Walmart has confirmed all those killed were employees. The victims have been identified as Brian Pendleton, 38; Kellie Pyle, 52; Lorenzo Gamble, 43; and Randy Blevins, 70, all from Chesapeake; and Tyneka Johnson, 22, of nearby Portsmouth. Many had been longtime Walmart employees, and one planned to retire next year. Police initially withheld the name of the 16-year-old who was killed, but identified him Friday as Fernando Chavez-Barron of Chesapeake. According to reports, Chavez-Barron had just started working at the store and used his first paycheck to purchase gifts for his mom.
- The shooter legally purchased the 9mm handgun used in the shooting from a “local store” early that morning, according to the police report. Like many US states, Virginia does not require a waiting period between the time of purchase of a firearm and the actual physical transfer of the weapon to the individual making the purchase.
- Walmart stopped selling handguns in the mid-1990s in every state but Alaska, where sales continued until 2019. The company has also stopped selling handgun ammunition as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as those used in military-style weapons. The changes allowed Walmart to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only. Many of its stores are in rural areas where hunters depend on Walmart to purchase their hunting gear.
- The shooter had no criminal history, but there were allegedly some warning signs that things might become disruptive. An employee who witnessed the carnage reported that Bing often “said a lot of disturbing things” and was “condescending” and “quite mean to a lot of us.” Others said he was paranoid and kept black tape over his phone camera. “He was always saying the government was watching him,” claims another employee. “Everyone always thought something was wrong with him.” A former employee from the store also remarked that Bing had made chilling threats years before, stating that, “… if he ever got fired from his job he would retaliate and people would remember who he was.”
- Following the shooting, detectives conducted a forensic analysis of Bing’s phone, which was found at the scene. While searching the phone they discovered a file labeled “Death Note” on the device. They said that Bing reportedly had a “manifesto” on his phone along with a list of colleagues he wanted to target. In the note, which police shared publicly with redactions, the author claimed he was “harassed” and “laughed at” by people, later referencing the “management team” and “associates.” He also complained about recent, unspecified changes to his employment status and how other employees were harassing him over it.
- In addition to his paranoia that the government was watching him, Bing also believed that he was being mocked and bullied by his co-workers. The “Death Note” mentions God, the Holy Spirit, and how he felt his co-workers were mocking him. “They gave me evil twisted grins, mocked me, and celebrated my downfall the last day. That’s why they suffer the same fate as me,” the note says.
- Officers executed a search warrant of the shooter’s home and found a box of ammunition and “various items” related to the handgun, including a box, his receipt for the weapon, and other paperwork.
- The event and those targeted appear to be pre-meditated. It has also been reported that Bing discarded a “kill list” of co-workers with the names of 18 of his fellow employees included on the list, which was found in a trash receptacle outside of his home. Tyneka Johnson, who he killed, was found on the list and circled, although the names of others he killed—Brian Pendleton, Randall Blevins, Lorenzo Gamble, and Kellie Pyle—were not. Two of those who were shot, survived, and are currently in hospital also had their names circled on the list. The printed list showed the names of workers at the Chesapeake store, their shift hours, what time they took breaks, departments they worked in, and their duties. Also among the trash were screenshots of CCTV surveillance footage from October, apparently from the Walmart store.
- The discovery of the list further reinforces claims by Jessica Wilczewski, an employee who told reporters she believed the gunman “had issues” with certain people and opened fire with a purpose. “The way he was acting—he was going hunting,” Wilczewski told The Associated Press. “The way he was looking at people’s faces and the way he did what he did, he was picking people out.” Wilczewski, who had worked at the store only a few days, said the gunman pointed the gun at her, but spared her life when he recognized her, saying “Jessie, go home.” He then fired again at other employees who he had already hit and were down.
Following this attack, Walmart issued a statement offering condolences to the families and friends of those killed and injured, the community in general, and the Walmart employees and customers of the Chesapeake store:
“The devastating news of the shooting at our Chesapeake, Virginia store at the hands of one of our associates has hit our Walmart family hard,” said John Furner, president and CEO at Walmart US. “We feel tragedies like this personally and deeply. The entire Walmart family is heartbroken. My heart hurts for our associates and the Chesapeake community who have lost or injured loved ones. We are here for them today and in the challenging days ahead they will have our support. We appreciate all of our associates, first responders, and local officials who are already on site helping offer support as we work together to navigate this tragedy.”
The FBI’s Norfolk field office is assisting Chesapeake police with the investigation.
The incident has come amid yet another wave of deadly gun violence across the country. Days before, a gunman attacked Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring more than a dozen others. The week before that, three students at the University of Virginia were fatally shot. A database run by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University that tracks every mass killing in America going back to 2006 shows that the US has now had 40 mass killings thus far in 2022. That compares with 45 for all of 2019, the highest year in the database, which defines a mass killing as at least four people killed, not including the killer.
While there may be no easy answers to the many questions that these ongoing tragedies bring to the forefront, maybe it’s time we started looking at the more difficult ones.