Walmart shooting in Virginia: 7 dead, including gunman

The number of dead and wounded is still unclear, but no more than 10 people have died, local media outlet WAVY reported. PHOTO: BRETT HALL/TWITTER

RICHMOND, Virginia – The attacker in a shooting rampage that killed six people at a Walmart in the US state of Virginia was a store employee who apparently killed himself afterward, police said on Wednesday.

“We believe it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Chesapeake police chief Mark Solesky told a news conference.

He said the assailant opened fire with a pistol and that the motive was not yet known.

The killings shattered the routine of residents who were picking up supplies for Thanksgiving during a busy holiday week.

It was the second high-profile mass shooting in the United States in three days, after five people were killed at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, over the weekend.

The assailant in the Virginia shooting, whose name authorities had not released, was found dead at the store, officer Leo Kosinski, a spokesman for the Chesapeake Police Department, said in a brief news conference on Tuesday night.

The city of Chesapeake later said on Twitter that seven people had died, including the attacker. Four people were wounded in the attack.

The police department responded to a report of a shooting inside the Walmart at about 10.12pm, officer Kosinski said, about 45 minutes before the store was scheduled to close. He added that officers who entered the store found “multiple fatalities and multiple injured” people.

“I mean, it’s sad. You know we’re a couple days before the Thanksgiving holiday,” officer Kosinski said.

The Thanksgiving holiday falls on Nov 24 this year.

Walmart said in a statement on Wednesday morning that “we are shocked at this tragic event”.

“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.”

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Photos and videos from the scene of the Walmart shooting showed officers huddling around the entrance of the building, with numerous police vehicles parked in the large carpark of the store.

A large inflatable Santa Claus stood outside the store.

The Walmart supercentre where the shooting occurred is one of several in south-eastern Virginia.

It includes a grocery store, a pharmacy, a bank, a bakery and a deli, among other businesses.

Mr Kosinski told reporters that the Walmart was “very, very large”, although he did not know the square footage.

Chesapeake had a population of about a quarter of a million people last year, according to the US Census Bureau. It is near Virginia’s Atlantic coast and the border with North Carolina.

Tuesday’s bloodshed was the latest episode of gun violence in the United States, which has fuelled debate over tighter restrictions on access to guns. The US has recorded more than 600 mass shootings – where at least four people were killed or injured – so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. 

Earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, three members of the University of Virginia football team were killed by a former football player, who opened fire in a garage, the authorities said.

Senator Mark Warner said in a statement that he was “sickened by reports of yet another mass shooting”.

Ms L. Louise Lucas, a Virginia state senator, said on Twitter that she was “absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place in a Walmart in my district in Chesapeake”.

“I will not rest,” she said, “until we find the solutions to end this gun violence epidemic in our country that has taken so many lives.” AFP, NYTIMES, REUTERS

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