Gathered with others outside the Sam’s Club on the other end of the shopping center, Walmart worker Joseph Strempski described hearing the gunfire. He said he was in the maintenance closet when he heard the gunfire. He then saw people running and ran with them.
In a 30-minute time span, police from across multiple agencies responded in force to secure the scene. FBI agents could be seen at the scene, and ATF agents had been en route.
“As police arrived on scene, they realized it was an active shooter situation and we had to change our tactics,” said Leo Kosinski, a spokesperson for Chesapeake Police Department.
Kosinski said he did not believe the shooter was taken out by police, but details are limited. He was unable to provide any information about the shooter.
Walmart issued a statement via Twitter expressing shock over the deadly shooting.
“We’re praying for those impacted, the community and our associates,” the company said. “We’re working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates.”
The Chesapeake Conference Center reunification site was meant for immediate family members or the emergency contact of anyone who may have been in the building.
Among those gathered outside very early Wednesday morning was Camille Buggs, a former Walmart employee. She said she came to the conference center to try to find information about some of her former coworkers, whom she still considers family, but had not been able to reach them since 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 — and that’s the thing that has me shocked,” said Buggs, 58, of Chesapeake.
Buggs, who now works at nearby Greenbrier Mall, said she and her current coworkers would typically stop by the Walmart on their way home for snacks or food. But they opted not to Tuesday night, thinking about the workweek still ahead. It was only once she got home that she heard the news.
Local elected officials shared reactions on Twitter to the deadly shooting.
”I am absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place in a Walmart in my district in Chesapeake, Virginia, tonight. I will not rest until we find the solutions to end this gun violence epidemic in our country that has taken so many lives,” state Sen. Louise Lucas said.
”Enough is enough,” U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria said.
Chesapeake Mayor Rick West called for prayers for the victims, their loved ones and their coworkers, and expressed gratitude for the quick action by first responders.
“I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that took place late last night in our City,” West said in a statement. “Chesapeake is a (tight-knit) community and we are all shaken by this news. Together, we will support each other throughout this time.”
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