Officials said Friday that the gunman in this week’s shooting at Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, purchased the handgun he used the morning of the attack. He also left a “death note,” which detailed grievances against people in his life.
In the note, he talks about God and the holy spirit, and how he felt his “associates” mocked him. Associate is the term Walmart uses to refer to its employees.
“The associates gave me evil twisted grins, mocked me and celebrated my down fall the last day. That’s why they suffer the same fate as me,” says the note.
“I wish I could have saved everyone from myself,” continues the note. “My God forgive me for what I’m going to do.”
A series of tweets from the city released the note, redacting the names of those mentioned by the shooter, who fatally shot himself after killing six people at the store where he worked as an overnight supervisor Tuesday. According to police, no redacted names were associated with the victims.
City officials said the gunman had no criminal history, and the 9mm weapon he used in the killings was legally purchased. A search of his home turned up ammunition and “various items related to the 9 mm handgun (box, receipt, other paperwork),” the city reported.
Asked if the gunman had ever complained about his colleagues, Walmart replied, “There is nothing that can justify taking innocent lives. Our focus continues to be on the families who are grieving and supporting our associates through this difficult time.”
As authorities continue to look for a motive in the mass shooting, news of the note broke. City officials said Thursday that two of their employees remained hospitalized, one of whom was in critical condition.
“Today we are focused only on those hurt by Tuesday’s tragic event, but the police investigation continues,” Chesapeake officials said on Thursday.
Randy Blevins, 70, Lorenzo Gamble, 43, Tyneka Johnson, 22, Brian Pendleton, 38, and Kellie Pyle, 52, were all killed in the incident. Fernando Chavez-Barron, 16, had been unidentified until Friday when the city named him.
The city of Chesapeake announced Friday it will hold a special meeting Monday night to confirm an emergency declaration that will “free up funding to support recovery” after the shooting.
Chesapeake’s Hampton Roads community gathered at a growing makeshift memorial outside Walmart on Thanksgiving, praying for all victims but paying special attention to Fernando. The youngest victim had just begun working at the store and spent his first paycheck on a gift for his mother, relatives told CNN affiliate WTKR.
“I’m out of words and speechless that it was him,” said Joshua Trejo-Alvarado. “I was hoping everything was a dream until today. I wish he was still standing here with me.”
Trejo-Alvarado didn’t realize his friend was a victim until Wednesday morning. He tried calling and texting him from school, risking confiscation of his phone, but he didn’t respond, so Trejo-Alvarado called his friend’s brother, who told him the grim news.
“He would always be outgoing with anybody he met,” added Trejo-Alvarado.
Residents are invited to attend a 6 p.m. vigil Monday to “honor the victims and grieve together.” It will be held in City Park, south of Walmart.
“Chesapeake is a tightknit community and we are all shaken,” stated West. “Together, we will support each other throughout this time.”
As many in the community prepared to spend the holiday with family and friends, the tragedy has unleashed an outpouring of grief and trauma over the death of loved ones in yet another mass shooting.
A second Virginia community has also been devastated by gun violence. On November 13, a 22-year-old student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville opened fire on fellow students on a bus returning from a field trip to Washington, DC, killing three of them.
Similarly, the Colorado community is mourning the death of five people and the injuring of 19 others in a shootout at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs over the weekend.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that began tracking the cases in 2014, the shootings, among many others, have put the US on track to become the second-highest year for mass shootings on record in 2022.
Joe Biden used the occasion to decry gun violence and urge Congress to help him get rid of assault weapons like those used in Colorado.
“The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick. It’s just sick. It has no social redeeming value – zero, none – not a single, solitary rationale for it,” Biden told reporters on Thursday in Nantucket.
Witnesses said they were shocked and disbelieving when they saw the gunman pointing a handgun at them – a 31-year-old overnight team lead who had worked at the store since 2010. Police said he had multiple magazines with him.
Kevin Harper, a Walmart employee, said the shooter opened fire immediately after entering the break room.
“He came in there and just started spraying,” Harper explained on social media.
Chesapeake city officials said two of the victims were found in the break room, another was found at the front of the store, and three others died at the hospital. In a statement, police said that the shooter had killed himself.
A mother of a 15-month-old, Jessie Wilczewski, had just started working at Walmart a few days prior and was attending a routine meeting in the break room at 10 p.m. when she looked up, she saw the gunman pointing his gun at coworkers. She did not register the reality of the incident until her chest vibrated and her ears rang at the sound of the gunshots, she said.
Trying to remain quiet as co-workers lay still on chairs and the ground, the shooter left the break room area. As she hid under the table, she tried to stay quiet. It haunted her the day after the shooting, she said, hearing their blood hitting the floor.
“The sound of the droplets,” she explained. “It replays and replays and replays and replays.”
Later, the gunman came back and told her to get out from under the table. She recalled that he put a gun to her forehead and told her to go home, aiming the gun at the ceiling.
“I had to touch the door, which was covered (in blood), and I walked out the double doors to where you can see the aisles of Walmart,” she recalled. “I just remember gripping my bag and thinking, ‘If he’s going to shoot me in the back – well, he’s going to have to try really hard because I’m running,’ and I booked it.”
Another new hire, Briana Tyler, saw bullets fly inches from her face.
“All of a sudden you just hear pa pa pa pa pa pa,” Tyler stated. “There were people just dropping to the floor. … Everybody was screaming, gasping, and yeah, he just walked away after that and just continued throughout the store and just kept shooting.”