CHESAPEAKE, Virginia – Every night, as they clocked in for the overnight shift at about 10pm, the employees of a Walmart in Chesapeake gathered in the break room.
They chatted and prepared for the long shift ahead, then got to work cleaning and restocking the store for the next day. The hours ran late and the work could be tiring, but members of the team – some of whom had worked there for years – said they were often buoyed by the camaraderie they found.
“Our overnight crew, we were a family when I was there,” said Ms Shaundrayia Reese, 27, who worked at the Walmart in a Chesapeake strip mall for several years, from around 2015-18. “Everyone loved each other.”
On Tuesday night, six Walmart employees, many of whom were part of that tight-knit team, were fatally shot, the authorities say, by a longtime night-crew supervisor who opened fire in the break room where the team had gathered so often.
Among the dead were employees who had worked at the store for years: Mr Randall Blevins, a beloved father and coin collector; Mr Lorenzo Gamble, the father of two sons who cherished the Mustang he drove; and Mr Brian Pendleton, a maintenance employee whom co-workers said they leaned on for support.
Newer employees were also among those killed, including Ms Kellie Pyle, who was to be married in the next year, and Ms Tyneka Johnson, whom relatives and neighbours described as kindhearted. The authorities said a 16-year-old boy, who worked at the store but whose name had yet to be released, was also killed.
By Thursday, two others remained hospitalised with injuries, officials said. The gunman, the authorities said, also died of a self-inflicted gunshot with a pistol. Police have yet to suggest a motive for the shooting and say their investigation will continue.
The shooter; his victims
Some employees and their families came on Thursday to a hotel not far from the store for counselling and support; some sobbed as they were escorted in.
“My heart hurts for our associates and the Chesapeake community who have lost or injured loved ones,” Mr Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Police have identified the gunman as Andre Bing, 31, an overnight supervisor who had worked at Walmart since 2010.
At the start of his shift, he would assemble his team for a meeting, handing...