Walmart employee kills 7, including himself, at Virginia store – Canon City Daily Record

By Caitlyn Burchett and Ian Munro
The Virginian Pilot


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Seven people died in a shooting at a Chesapeake Walmart late Tuesday night, police confirmed Wednesday morning. The shooter is among the dead, according to police.

Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky confirmed Wednesday that the shooter was a Walmart employee. The shooter, whose identity was not released because next of kin were not notified, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Solesky said.

The shooter, a man of unknown age, opened fire with a pistol starting in the Walmart break room, according to Solesky. He added that there was no further threat to the public.

Six victims have died and four are being treated at area hospitals, Solesky said. Police reported that a fifth victim was being treated early Wednesday morning but gave no further details on that victim’s condition. No names of the victims were released as of Wednesday morning.

The first report of a shooting came at 10:12 p.m. Tuesday at Sam’s Circle Walmart on Battlefield Boulevard. Police were on the scene by 10:14 p.m., Solesky said. The building was declared safe at 11:20 p.m.

Investigators are not aware of anything about the shooter’s background that would have given rise to concern. When asked if the shooter was known to police, Solesky said, “Not that I know of at this point.”

Five patients from the shooting were being treated at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital late Tuesday night, confirmed Mike Kafka, a spokesman for Sentara Healthcare. Kafka was unable to provide any information about the condition of those treated.

Mourning was shown both outside the hospital and at a family reunification center set up in Chesapeake.

Just after 2am, a victim’s brother was escorted out of the emergency room after he burst into a fit of emotion, crying and screaming after learning his loved one had died. “You killed my brother,” the man yelled as he walked away from the hospital.

Screams pierced the air as a group of people exited the Chesapeake Conference Center, which was lit by the flashing blue lights of a Chesapeake police car. The conference center was set up as a place for family reunions.

Walmart worker Joseph Strempski, who had gathered with others outside Sam’s Club at the far end of the mall, described hearing the gunshots. He said he was in the maintenance closet when he heard the shots. Then he saw people running and ran with them.

Within 30 minutes, police from multiple agencies responded with full force to secure the crime scene. FBI agents could be seen at the scene and ATF agents were on the move.

“When police got to the scene, they realized it was an active shooting situation and we had to change tactics,” said Leo Kosinski, a spokesman for the Chesapeake Police Department.

Kosinski said he doesn’t think the shooter was taken out by police, but details are limited. He could not provide information about the shooter.

Walmart issued a statement via Twitter expressing shock at the fatal shooting.

“We are praying for those affected, the community and our employees,” the company said. “We work closely with law enforcement and are focused on supporting our employees.”

The Chesapeake Conference Center reunion location was intended for immediate family members or emergency contact of anyone who may have been in the building.

Among those gathered outside very early Wednesday morning was Camille Buggs, a former Walmart employee. She said she came to the conference center to find information about some of her former colleagues, whom she still considers family, but has not been able to reach her since the shooting.

“You keep saying you don’t think it would happen in your town, in your neighborhood, in your store — your favorite store — and that shocked me,” said Buggs, 58, of Chesapeake.

Buggs, who now works at the nearby Greenbrier Mall, said she and her current co-workers usually stop by Walmart for snacks or food on their way home. But they didn’t choose Tuesday evening, thinking about the work week ahead of them. It wasn’t until she got home that she heard the news.

Local elected officials shared their reactions to the deadly shooting on Twitter.

“I am absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place tonight at a Walmart in my district of Chesapeake, Virginia. I will not rest until we find solutions to end this epidemic of gun violence in our country that has claimed so many lives,” said Senator Louise Lucas.

“Enough is enough,” said US Rep. Elaine Luria.

Chesapeake Mayor Rick West called for prayer for the victims, their families and their staff and thanked first responders for the quick action they took.

“I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that took place in our city late last night,” West said in a statement. “Chesapeake is a (close-knit) community and we are all devastated by this news. Together we will support each other during this time.”