National

“Everyone loved each other.”

Investigators at the scene of a mass shooting that killed six people at a Walmart store in Chesapeake, Virginia, November 23, 2022. Kenny Holston/The New York Times

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia — Every night when they checked in for the night shift around 10:00 p.m., Walmart employees in Chesapeake gathered in the break room.

  • APTOPIX Walmart Mass Shooting 73081 637e8a5f09466

    Virginia Walmart manager opens fire in break room, killing 6 people

They chatted and prepared for the long shift ahead, then set about cleaning and restocking the store for the next day. The hours were late and the work could be tiring, but team members – some of whom had worked there for years – said they were often encouraged by the camaraderie they found.

“Our night crew when I was there, we were family,” said Shaundrayia Reese, 27, who worked at Walmart in the Chesapeake mall for several years from around 2015 to 2018. “Everyone loved each other.”

On Tuesday night, six Walmart employees, many of whom were part of this close-knit team, were fatally shot, authorities say, by night crew manager for many years who opened fire in the break room where the team congregated so often.

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A candlelight vigil at a local church for the victims of a mass shooting that killed six people at a Walmart store in Chesapeake, Virginia, Wednesday, November 23, 2022. – Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Among those killed were employees who had worked at the store for years: Randall Blevins, beloved father and coin collector; Lorenzo Gamble, father of two sons who loved the Mustang he drove; and Brian Pendleton, a conservationist whom colleagues said they could count on for support. New employees were also among the dead, including Kellie Pyle, who was due to get married next year, and Tyneka Johnson, who was described as good-natured by relatives and neighbors. Authorities said a 16-year-old boy who worked at the store, but whose name has not yet been released, was also killed.

According to officials, two other people remained in the hospital with injuries until Thursday. Authorities said the gunman also died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Police have not yet given a motive for the shooting and said the investigation will continue.

Some workers and their families came to a hotel near the store on Thursday for advice and support; some sobbed as they were escorted. “My heart aches for our associates and the Chesapeake community who have lost or injured loved ones,” Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, said in a Wednesday statement.

Police identified the gunman as 31-year-old Andre Bing, the night supervisor who had worked at Walmart since 2010. According to Nathan Sinclair, who worked as a manager on the previous shift, at the beginning of his shift, he would gather his team for a meeting, handing out assignments and notes from previous shifts.

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Mourners visit a makeshift memorial at the site of a mass shooting that killed six people at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. – Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Former employees have described Bing as repulsive superior who have expressed concerns about government surveillance; neighbors described him as quiet and rarely seen except when mowing the lawn. He left for work in the evening and returned in the morning. “That’s all you could see from him,” said Brittany Jennings, a 37-year-old neighbor.

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Tyneka Johnson. – Chesapeake Police Department via AP

Among the victims, Johnson, who was in her early 20s and described as cute by neighbors, had only recently started working at the store.

“She was young and wanted to earn her own money,” said Cousin Theodore Johnson, 41, adding that she lived with her mother.

Pyle, 52, was good-natured and generous, planning to marry in the near future, The Associated Press reported. She had grown children in Kentucky who were planning a trip to Virginia after the massacre.

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Kelly Pyle. – Chesapeake Police Department via AP

“We love her,” Gwendolyn Bowe Baker Spencer, the mother of Pyle’s partner, told the AP. “She was going to marry my son next year. She was an amazing, kind person – yes she was.”

Blevins, 70, was a longtime member of the store’s price-setting and merchandise-arranging team, according to Reese, who said she knew him as “Mr. Garish.”

Blevins loved Norfolk Admirals hockey games, photography and coin collecting, said his daughter, Cassandra Yeats.

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Randy Blevins. – Chesapeake Police Department via AP

“He never missed a single day of work,” she said. “He loved his family and supported everyone.”

About 100 people gathered in the Chesapeake Walmart parking lot Thursday night to honor the memory of a 16-year-old shooting victim. Friends and family, dressed in white, held on and held back tears as prayers were said and dozens of white balloons were released into the sky.

A family friend said the boy attended a local high school while taking a day job at Walmart to help support his family. “He wanted to help out a bit,” said Rosy Perez, a family friend. “He was a very good kid.”

“He was always the sunshine in the room, he always made someone laugh,” said 17-year-old Mary Guiterrez, who had known the victim since childhood. “He had big dreams in life.”

Pendleton, another of the victims, was a maintenance worker whom a former employee recalled as one of the store’s hardest workers.

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Brian Pendleton. – Chesapeake Police Department via AP

“If you had any problems, you could go to Brian,” said former employee Josh Johnson, who worked at the store for 2.5 years. “He will follow you and help you with everything.”

Reese said she was especially close to Pendleton.

“He never raised his voice, he never had bones in his body,” she said. “No one could say a bad word about this man. He was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in my life.”

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Lorenz Hazard. – Chesapeake Police Department via AP

Gamble worked at Walmart for about 15 years, according to his mother, checking in at night and returning home in the morning in his silver and black Mustang. The mother, Linda Gamble, said her son was known to be quiet in the family and had two sons.

On Tuesday night, Gamble was getting ready for Thanksgiving when she heard there had been a shooting at Walmart. Her husband drove to the Chesapeake Conference Center, where authorities were ordering families to meet in anticipation of news of their relatives.

He returned a few hours later, recalls Gamble, and told her, “Your baby is gone.”

“All I could do,” she said, “was fall off the chair and scream.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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