CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Each night, as they clocked in for the night shift around 10 p.m., employees at a Walmart in Chesapeake would congregate in the break room.
They chatted and prepared for the long shift ahead, then got to work cleaning and restocking the store for the next day. The hours were ticking 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 shift, we were family when I was there,” said Shaunrayia Reese, 27, who worked at Walmart in a Chesapeake mall for several years from around 2015 to 2018. “Everyone loved each other,” she recalls. .
On Tuesday night, six Walmart employees, many of them part of this tight-knit team, were shot and killed, authorities say, by a longtime night shift supervisor who opened fire in the break room where the team had met so often.
Among the dead were employees who had worked at the store for years: Randall Blevins, a beloved father and coin collector; Lorenzo Gamble, father of two sons who treasured the Mustang he drove; and Brian Pendleton, a maintenance worker whom colleagues said they leaned on for support. Newer employees were also among those killed, including Kellie Pyle, who was due to marry next year, and Tyneka Johnson, who relatives and neighbors described as giving. Authorities said a 16-year-old boy, who worked at the store but whose name has not yet been released, was also killed.
As of Thursday, two more people remained hospitalized with injuries, officials said. The shooter, authorities said, also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police have not yet suggested a motive for the shooting and say their investigation will continue.
Some employees and their families visited a hotel not far from the store on Thursday for advice and support; some sobbed as they were escorted away. “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 statement Wednesday.
Police identified the shooter as Andre Bing, 31, a night shift supervisor who had worked at Walmart since 2010. At the start of his shift, he was gathering his team for a meeting, handing out homework and notes from shifts. previous jobs, according to Nathan Sinclair, who had worked as a manager on a previous shift.
Former employees described Mr. Bing as an off-putting supervisor who expressed fears about government surveillance; neighbors described him as a quiet person who they rarely saw unless he was mowing his lawn. He would go to work at night and come back in the morning. “That’s all you would see of him,” said neighbor Brittany Jennings, 37.
Among the victims, Ms Johnson, who was in her early 20s and was described by neighbors as sweet, had only recently started working at the store.
“She was young and wanted to make her own money,” said a cousin, Theodore Johnson, 41, adding that Ms Johnson lived with her mother. ”
Kellie Pyle, 52, was caring and generous, with plans to marry in the near future, the Associated Press reported. She had adult children in Kentucky who planned to move to Virginia following the massacre.
“We love it,” Gwendolyn Bowe Baker Spencer, the mother of Ms Pyle’s partner, told the AP. “She was going to marry my son next year. She was a great, kind person – yes, she was.
Randall Blevins, 70, was a longtime member of the store’s team that sets prices and organizes merchandise, according to Ms. Reese, who said she knew him as “Mr. Excited.”
Mr Blevins enjoyed Norfolk Admirals hockey games, photography and coin collecting, said his daughter, Cassandra Yeats.
“He never missed a single day of work,” she said. “He loved his family and was supportive of everyone.”
Mr Pendleton, another of the victims, was a maintenance worker whom a former employee recalled as one of the hardest workers at the store.
“If you had any problems, you could go to Brian,” said former employee Josh Johnson, who worked at the store for two and a half years. “He would bat for you and help you with anything.”
Ms Reese said she was particularly close to Mr Pendleton.
“He never raised his voice, never had a bad bone in his body,” she said. “No one could ever speak ill of this man. He was one of the sweetest people I have ever met in my life. »
Mr. Gamble had worked at Walmart for about 15 years, according to his mother, clocking in at night and returning home in the morning in his silver and black Mustang. The mother, Linda Gamble, said her son was known as the quietest in the family and had two sons.
On Tuesday night, Ms Gamble was getting ready for Thanksgiving when she learned there had been a shooting at Walmart. Her husband went to the Chesapeake Conference Center, where authorities had told families to meet to await news of loved ones.
He came back a few hours later, Ms Gamble recalled, and told her: “Your baby is gone.”
“All I could do,” she said, “was fall off the chair and scream.”
Eduardo Medina, Nicolas Bogel-Burroughs, Michael Corkery, Jenny Gross and Rich Griset contributed reporting. Sheelagh McNeill, Kitty Bennett and Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.