‘We Were a Family’: Walmart shooting victims had worked a night shift

0
2

Law enforcement officers at the scene of a mass shooting that killed six people at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia on Nov. 23, 2022. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – Every night, as they clocked in for the night shift around 10 p.m., the employees of a Walmart in Chesapeake would gather in the break room.

They talked and prepared for the long shift ahead of them, then got to work cleaning and restocking the store for the next day. The hours stretched and the work could be exhausting, but members of the team – some of whom had worked there for years – said they were often supported by the camaraderie they found.

“Our night shift, we were a family when I was there,” says Shaundrayia Reese, 27, who worked at the Walmart in a Chesapeake strip mall for several years from about 2015-18. “Everyone loved each other.”

Sign up for The New York Times’ The Morning newsletter

On Tuesday night, six Walmart employees, many of whom were part of that tight-knit team, were fatally shot, authorities say, by an old night shift supervisor who opened fire in the break room where the team had so often gathered.

Among the dead were employees who had worked at the store for years: Randall Blevins, a beloved father and coin collector; Lorenzo Gamble, the father of two sons who loved the Mustang he drove; and Brian Pendleton, a maintenance worker whom colleagues said they leaned on. The dead also included newer employees, including Kellie Pyle, who was due to marry next year, and Tyneka Johnson, who was described as kind-hearted by relatives and neighbors. Authorities said a 16-year-old boy, who worked at the store but whose name had not yet been released, was also killed.

See also  A debt limit deal with something for everyone

Two others were hospitalized with injuries on Thursday, officials said. The gunman, authorities said, also died from a self-inflicted gunshot with a handgun. Police have not yet found a motive for the shooting and say the investigation will continue.

Some employees and their families came to a hotel not far from the store on Thursday for advice and support; some sobbed as they were escorted inside. “My heart aches for our employees and the Chesapeake community who have lost or injured loved ones,” Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement Wednesday.

Police have 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 gathered his team for a meeting, handing out assignments and notes from previous shifts, said Nathan Sinclair, who had worked as a manager on a previous shift.

Former employees described Bing as an obnoxious supervisor who expressed concerns about government oversight; neighbors described him as quiet and someone 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’d see of him,” said Brittany Jennings, 37, a neighbor.

Among the victims was Johnson, who was in her early twenties and described as sweet by her neighbors, only recently started working at the store.

See also  Woman to stand trial for death of 2 cyclists in Michigan

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

Pyle, 52, was kind-hearted and generous, with plans to marry in the near future, The The US Express News reported. She had adult children in Kentucky who planned to travel to Virginia in the aftermath of the massacre.

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

Blevins, 70, was a longtime member of the retail team that sets prices and arranges merchandise, according to Reese, who said she knew him as “Mr. Randy.”

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

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

On Thursday evening, about 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Chesapeake Walmart for a memorial for the 16-year-old shooting victim. Friends and family, dressed in white, held each other and swallowed tears as a prayer was said and dozens of white balloons were released into the sky.

A friend of the family said the boy attended a local high school and at the same time took the Walmart job overnight to help his family. “He wanted to help a little bit,” said Rosy Perez, the family’s friend. “He was a very good kid.”

See also  Judge throws out lawsuit, says police acted reasonable in shooting kneeling Pineville man

“He was always the ray of sunshine in the room and 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 victim, was a maintenance worker whom a former employee remembered as one of the store’s hardest workers.

“If you had problems, you could go to Brian,” said former employee, Josh Johnson, who worked at the store for 2 1/2 years. “He was going to hit for you and help you with everything.”

Reese said she was very close with Pendleton.

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

Gamble, according to his mother, had worked at the Walmart for about 15 years, 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 to be the quiet one in the family and had two sons.

On Tuesday night, Gamble was preparing for Thanksgiving when she learned there had been a shooting at the Walmart. Her husband drove to the Chesapeake Conference Center, where authorities had ordered the families to meet to await news of their relatives.

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

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

© 2022 The New York Times Company

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here