An employee opened fire at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, killing six people and wounding at least five others, authorities said, in the latest incident in a wave of gun violence across the nation.
Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky said at a briefing Wednesday that the first 911 call came in at 10:12 p.m. Tuesday, and the first officers arrived two minutes later, entering the store at 10:16. Police spokesman Leo Kosinski said rescue and tactical teams swept through the store providing life-saving measures.
Solesky said the assailant was a store employee and was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“You hope a day like this never comes, but we train for it, we practice, we talk about it, we learn lessons,” City Manager Chris Price said at the briefing. “You hope that those lesson will never have to be put to use.”
Mike Kafka, a spokesman for Sentara Healthcare, said five patients from Walmart are being treated at Norfolk General Hospital. Their conditions weren’t immediately available.
Mayor Rick W. West, in a statement posted on Twitter, lauded the efforts of first responders.
“I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that took place late last night in our city,” West said. “Chesapeake is a tightknit community and we are all shaken by this news.”
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The shooting in Chesapeake is the latest incident to rock the country, coming days after a massacre in a well-known LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where five people were killed. Earlier this month, three University of Virginia football players were killed and two other people hospitalized following a campus shooting – the same day four University of Idaho four students were found dead with multiple stab wounds.
A database run by USA TODAY, The Associated Press and Northeastern University that tracks mass killings since 2006 counts 40 mass killings so far this year, second to the 45 that occurred for all of 2019. The database defines a mass killing as at least four people killed, not including the killer.
In Chesapeake, police tweeted that a family reunification site had been set up at the Chesapeake Conference Center. Among those gathered outside early Wednesday was Camille Buggs, a former Walmart employee who told the Virginian-Pilot she hoped to learn the fate of some of her former coworkers she had not been able to reach after the shooting.
“You always say you don’t think it would happen in your town, in your neighborhood, in your store, in your favorite store,” Buggs, 58, of Chesapeake told the outlet. “That’s the thing that has me shocked.”
Stunned employees also gathered at the nearby Sam’s Club, where attendance was taken, WAVY-TV reported. Police said all employees had been accounted for.
Authorities asked the public to stay clear of the scene. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was assisting with the investigation.
A Walmart in El Paso, Texas was the scene of one of the nation’s bloodiest attacks in 2019, when a gunman police say was targeting Mexicans killed 22 people.
Walmart released a statement on Twitter early Wednesday: “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.”
Sen. Mark Warner tweeted he is “sickened by reports of yet another mass shooting, this time at a Walmart in Chesapeake.”
State Sen. Louise Lucas echoed Warner’s sentiment, tweeting she was “absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place in a Walmart in my district.”
Where is Chesapeake located?
Chesapeake is a city of about 250,000 people, 100 miles southeast of Richmond. The city sits on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, a few miles from the Virginia Beach oceanfront and downtown Norfolk.
“Chesapeake offers an endless range of outdoor activities, terrific shopping, phenomenal food, and beautiful wildlife,” the city says on its website. “Here you will find an impressively diverse collection of geography encompassing urban delights, rural masterpieces, and an endless menu of outdoor options and indoor fun.”
Contributing: Charles Ventura, USA TODAY; The Associated Press