VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Seven people died in a shooting inside a Chesapeake Walmart late Tuesday night, police confirmed Wednesday morning. The shooter is among the dead, according to police.
Chesapeake police Chief Mark Solesky on Wednesday confirmed that the shooter was a Walmart employee. The shooter, whose identity has not been released because next of kin has not been notified, died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Solesky said.
The shooter, a man of unknown age, opened fire starting in the Walmart break room with a pistol, according to Solesky. He added that there is no further threat to the public.
Six victims have died, and four are being treated at area hospitals, Solesky said. Police reported there was a fifth victim being treated early Wednesday morning but have given no further details on that victim’s condition. No victims' names have been released as of Wednesday morning.
The first report of a shooting came in at 10:12 p.m. Tuesday at Sam’s Circle Walmart located off Battlefield Boulevard. Police were on scene by 10:14 pm, Solesky said. The building was declared safe by 11:20 pm.
Investigators are not aware of anything in the shooter’s background that would have indicated cause for concern. Asked if the shooter was known to police, Solesky said, “Not that I’m aware of at this time.”
Five patients from the shooting were being treated late Tuesday night at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, confirmed Mike Kafka, a spokesman for Sentara Healthcare. Kafka was unable to provide the conditions of those being treated.
Grief was on display outside both the hospital and at a family reunification center set up in Chesapeake.
Just after 2 a.m., the brother of a victim was escorted out of the emergency room after he erupted into a fit of emotion, wailing and yelling after learning his loved one had died. “They killed my brother,” the man yelled as he ran on foot away from the hospital.
Shrieks cut through the air as a group of people exited the Chesapeake Conference Center, illuminated by the flashing blue lights of a Chesapeake police car. The conference center had been set up as a family reunification site.
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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