Six people were killed and four wounded in a shooting at a Walmart in Virginia late on Tuesday night, police said, in the second high-profile mass killing in the US in a handful of days. The assailant was also dead. Police said the suspect was a store employee.
The chief of Chesapeake police, Mark Solesky, told reporters on Wednesday the gunman killed himself. There was no clear motive for the shooting, Solesky said. The gunman’s home was searched, but Solesky did not give his name because his family had not been notified.
The store in Chesapeake was likely to be closed for several days while investigations continued, a police spokesperson, Leo Kosinski, said in the early hours of Wednesday.
The shooting came three days after a person opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado, killing five people and wounding 17. That shooter, who is nonbinary, was arrested after patrons at the club tackled them. The shootings come in a year in which the US was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
The shooting in Chesapeake also brought back memories of another at a Walmart store in 2019, when a gunman police say targeted Mexicans opened fire at a store in El Paso and killed 22.
A database run by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks every mass killing in America going back to 2006 shows this year has been especially bad. The US has had 40 mass killings in 2022, second to 45 in 2019. The database defines a mass killing as at least four people killed, not including the killer.
In a brief news conference, Kosinski said police received reports of a shooting at 10pm and arrived to find multiple fatalities. The shooting was thought to have stopped when police arrived, Kosinski said, adding that he did not believe police fired shots but he could not say whether the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
The city set up a reunification site at the Chesapeake Conference Center for family members of those who may have been present. One such family member, Joetta Jeffery, told CNN she received text messages from her mother who was inside the store during the shooting. Her mother, Betsy Umphlett, was not injured.
“I’m crying, I’m shaking,” Jeffery said. “I had just talked to her about buying turkeys for Thanksgiving, then this text came in.”
A man was seen in distress at a hospital after learning his brother was dead, the Virginian-Pilot reported. Similar scenes were reported at the conference center. Camille Buggs, a former Walmart employee, told the paper she went to the conference center seeking information about 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 the thing that has me shocked,” Buggs said.
In a statement, the mayor of Chesapeake, Rick West, said: “I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that took place late last night in our city. Chesapeake is a tight-knit community and we are all shaken by this news.”
Walmart said: “We are shocked at this tragic event at our Chesapeake, Virginia store. We’re praying for those impacted, the community and our associates. We’re working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates,” the tweet said.
The US senator Mark Warner said in a tweet he was “sickened by reports of yet another mass shooting”.
A Virginia state senator, Louise Lucas, said she was “absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place in a Walmart in my district.
“I will not rest until we find the solutions to end this gun violence epidemic in our country that has taken so many lives.”