Walmart executive fired on employee in break room at Virginia store; 6 dead

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — A Walmart executive opened fire on co-workers in the break room of a Virginia store, killing six people in the country’s second high-profile mass shooting in four days, police and a witness said Wednesday.

The gunman, who appeared to have shot himself, was dead when police found him, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark G. Solesky said. There was no clear motive for the shooting, which also took four people to the hospital.

Walmart mass shooting

Law enforcement is at the scene of a mass shooting at a Walmart on Wednesday, November 23, 2022 in Chesapeake, Virginia.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Keep scrolling for a collection of photos from the scene

The store was busy with people stocking up ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday just before Tuesday night’s attack, a shopper told a local TV station.

Employee Briana Tyler said workers gathered in the store’s break room as they normally did before their shifts.

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“I looked up and my manager just opened the door and he just opened fire,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America, adding that “several people” fell to the ground.

“He didn’t say a word, he didn’t say anything at all,” she said.

Solesky confirmed that the shooter, who used a handgun, was a Walmart employee but did not provide his name because his family had not been notified. The police chief could not confirm whether the victims were all employees.

Clerk Jessie Wilczewski told Norfolk TV station WAVY that she hid under the table and the gunman looked at her with his gun pointed at her, told her to go home and she left.

“It didn’t even look real until you could feel the… ‘pow-pow-pow,’ you can feel it,” Wilczewski said. “I couldn’t hear it at first because I think it was so loud I could feel it.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin tweeted Wednesday morning that he was in contact with law enforcement officials and said he would make resources available as the investigation advances.

“Our hearts are breaking with the Chesapeake community this morning,” Youngkin wrote. “Heinous acts of violence have no place in our communities.”

It was the second time in just over a week that Virginia had experienced a major shooting. Three University of Virginia football players were fatally shot on a charter bus while returning to campus from a field trip on November 13. Two other students were injured in the shooting.

“I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that took place in our city late last night,” Mayor Rick W. West said in a statement posted to the city’s Twitter account on Wednesday. “Chesapeake is a close-knit community and we are all devastated by this news.”

A database maintained by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University that tracks every mass murder in America since 2006 shows that year was particularly violent.

There have been 40 mass murders in the US so far this year, compared to 45 for all of 2019. The database defines a mass murder as four or more people killed, not counting the killer.

The Walmart attack came three days after a person opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado, killing five and wounding 17. Earlier this year, the country was rocked by the deaths of 21 when a gunman stormed an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Tuesday night’s shooting also brought back memories of another at a Walmart in 2019, when a gunman targeting Mexicans opened fire at a store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people.

A 911 call came in just after 10 p.m. about the shooting in Chesapeake, Virginia’s second-largest city, which is adjacent to the coastal communities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The store was open at the time, but Solesky didn’t know how many shoppers were inside or if the shooter was working.

When asked if a security guard was present, the police chief said he didn’t know.

Joetta Jeffery told CNN that she received text messages from her mother, who was at the store when the shots were fired. Her mother, Betsy Umphlett, was not injured.

“I’m crying, I’m shaking,” Jeffery said. “I was just talking to her about buying turkeys for Thanksgiving when this text came in.”

A man was seen at a hospital upon learning his brother was dead, and others screamed as they exited a conference center set up as a family reunion center, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Camille Buggs, a former Walmart employee, told the newspaper she went to the conference center to get information about her former colleagues.

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

Walmart tweeted early Wednesday that it was “shocked by this tragic event.”

Senator Mark Warner said in a tweet he was “disgusted by reports of another mass shooting, this time at a Chesapeake Walmart.”

State Senator Louise Lucas echoed Warner’s sentiments, tweeting that she was “absolutely heartbroken that America’s most recent mass shooting took place at a Walmart in my district.”