A Walmart employee opened fire at a Virginia store, killing six people, according to police, in the country’s second high-profile mass killing in a matter of days. The assailant also committed suicide.
A shopper told a local TV station that the store in Chesapeake was busy just before the shooting Tuesday night, with people stocking up for the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to police chief Mark G. Solesky, there was no clear motive for the shooting, which also left four people hospitalized. The gunman’s home was searched, but Solesky refused to give his name, only stating that he worked for Walmart because his family had not been notified.
“I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that occurred late last night in our city,” Mayor Rick W. West said in a statement posted Wednesday on the city’s Twitter account. “Chesapeake is a close-knit community, and this news has shaken us all.”
According to CNN, Joetta Jeffery received text messages from her mother, who was inside the store when the shots were fired. Betsy Umphlett, her mother, was not hurt.
“I’m crying and shaking,” Jeffery admitted. “I had just finished talking to her about buying turkeys for Thanksgiving when this text arrived.”
According to a database maintained by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University that tracks every mass killing in America since 2006, this year has been especially bad. The United States has now had 40 mass killings this year, trailing only the 45 that occurred in all of 2019. A mass killing is defined by the database as at least four people killed, not including the killer.
The Walmart shooting happened three days after someone opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado, killing five people and injuring 17. Earlier this year, a gunman opened fire on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 21 people.
Tuesday’s shooting brought to mind another at a Walmart in 2019, when a gunman who police say was targeting Mexicans opened fire on a store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people.
According to Officer Leo Kosinski, the shooting appeared to have stopped when police arrived at the Chesapeake store. The city is the second-largest in Virginia and is located near the seaside communities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
Sentara Healthcare spokesman Mike Kafka said in a text message that five patients from the Walmart were being treated at Norfolk General Hospital. Their circumstances were not immediately available.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, one man was seen sobbing at a hospital after learning that his brother had died, and others shrieked as they left a conference center set up as a family reunification center.
Camille Buggs, a former Walmart employee, told the paper that she went to the conference center to learn more about her former coworkers.
“You always say you don’t think it would happen in your town, in your neighborhood, in your store — in your favorite store, and that’s what has me shocked,” said Chesapeake resident Buggs, 58.
Walmart expressed its “shock” at the tragic event on Twitter early Wednesday.
In a tweet, U.S. Senator Mark Warner said he was “sickened by reports of yet another mass shooting, this time at a Walmart in Chesapeake.”
State Senator Louise Lucas echoed Warner’s sentiment, tweeting, “absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting occurred in a Walmart in my district.”
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