Witness: Walmart shooter seemed to target certain people
Witness decribes seeing co-workers shot in Walmart break room; violence leaves six people dead. (Nov. 23) ((AP Video: Nathan Ellgren)
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — The Walmart supervisor who shot and killed six co-workers in Virginia seemed to target people and fired at some victims after they were already hit and appeared to be dead, said a witness who was present when the shooting started.
Jessica Wilczewski said that workers were gathered in a store break room to begin their overnight shift late Tuesday when team leader Andre Bing entered and opened fire with a handgun. While another witness has described Bing as shooting wildly, Wilczewski said that she observed him target certain people.
“The way he was acting — he was going hunting,” Wilczewski told The Associated Press on Thursday. “The way he was looking at people’s faces and the way he did what he did, he was picking people out.”
She said that she observed him shoot at people who were already on the ground.
“What I do know is that he made sure who he wanted dead, was dead,” she said. “He went back and shot dead bodies that were already dead. To make sure.”
Wilczewski said she had only worked at the store for five days and didn’t know who Bing got along with or had problems with. She said the fact that she was a new employee may have been why he spared her.
She said that after the shooting started, a co-worker sitting next to her pulled her under the table to hide. She said that at one point, Bing told her to get out from under the table. But when he saw who she was, he told her, “Jessie, go home.” She said she slowly got up and then ran out of the store.
Meanwhile, police are trying to determine a motive, while former coworkers are struggling to make sense of the rampage in Chesapeake, a city of about 250,000 people near Virginia’s coast.
Some who worked with Bing said he had a reputation for being an aggressive, if not hostile supervisor, who once admitted to having “anger issues.” But he also could make people laugh and seemed to be dealing with the typical stresses at work that many people endure.
“I don’t think he had many people to fall back on in his personal life,” said Nathan Sinclair, who worked at the Walmart for nearly a year before leaving earlier this month.
During chats among coworkers, “We would be like ‘work is consuming my life.’ And (Bing) would be like, ‘Yeah, I don’t have a social life anyway,’” Sinclair recalled Thursday.
Sinclair said he and Bing did not get along. Bing was known for being “verbally hostile” to employees and wasn’t particularly well-liked, Sinclair said. But there were times when Bing was made fun of and not necessarily treated fairly.
“There’s no telling what he could have been thinking … You never know if somebody really doesn’t have any kind of support group,” Sinclair said.
On balance, Bing seemed pretty normal to Janice Strausburg, who knew him from working at Walmart for 13 years before leaving in June.
Bing could be “grumpy” but he could also be “placid,” she said. He made people laugh and told Strausburg he liked dance. When she invited him to church, he declined but mentioned that his mother had been a preacher.
Strausburg thought Bing’s grumpiness was due to the stresses that come with any job. He also once told her that he had “had anger issues” and complained that he was going to “get the managers in trouble.”
She never expected this.
“I think he had mental issues,” Strausburg said Thursday. “What else could it be?”
Tuesday night’s violence in Chesapeake was the nation’s second high-profile mass shooting in four days. Bing was dead when officers reached the store in the state’s second-largest city. Authorities said he apparently shot himself.
Police have identified the victims as Brian Pendleton, 38; Kellie Pyle, 52; Lorenzo Gamble, 43; and Randy Blevins, 70, who were all from Chesapeake; and Tyneka Johnson, 22, of nearby Portsmouth. They said the dead also included a 16-year-old boy whose name was being withheld because of his age.
A Walmart spokesperson confirmed in an email that all of the victims worked for the company.
Krystal Kawabata, a spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, Virginia, confirmed that the agency is assisting police with the investigation but she directed all inquiries to the Chesapeake Police Department, the lead investigative agency.
Another Walmart employee, Briana Tyler, has said that Bing appeared to fire at random.
“He was just shooting all throughout the room. It didn’t matter who he hit,” Briana Tyler, a Walmart employee, told the AP Wednesday.
Six people were also wounded in the shooting, which happened just after 10 p.m. as shoppers were stocking up ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Police said they believe about 50 people were in the store at the time.
Bing, 31, was identified as an overnight team leader who had been a Walmart employee since 2010. Police said he had one handgun and several magazines of ammunition.
Tyler said the overnight stocking team of 15 to 20 people had just gathered in the break room to go over the morning plan. Another team leader had begun speaking when Bing entered the room and opened fire, Tyler and Wiczewski both said.
Tyler, who started working at Walmart two months ago and had worked with Bing just a night earlier, said she never had a negative encounter with him, but others told her he was “the manager to look out for.” She said Bing had a history of writing people up for no reason.
The attack was the second major shooting in Virginia this month. Three University of Virginia football players were fatally shot on a bus Nov. 13 as they returned from a field trip. Two other students were wounded.
The Walmart shooting also comes days after a person opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado — killing five and wounding 17. Tuesday night’s shooting brought back memories of another attack at a Walmart in 2019, when a gunman killed 23 at a store in El Paso, Texas.
Wilczewski, who survived Tuesday’s shooting in Virginia, said she tried but could not bring herself to visit a memorial in the store’s parking lot on Wednesday.
“I wrote a letter and I wanted to put it out there,” she said. “I wrote to the ones I watched die. And I said that I’m sorry I wasn’t louder. I’m sorry you couldn’t feel my touch. But you weren’t alone.”
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Chesapeake and news researchers Rhonda Shafner and Randy Herschaft in New York.