City begins vigil to honor those killed in Walmart shooting

City begins vigil to honor those killed in Walmart shooting

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – People living in Virginia’s second-largest city have begun honoring six people who were killed in a mass shooting while working for the nation’s largest employer, Walmart, in this sprawling but close-knit community near the coast.

Hundreds attended Monday night’s candlelight vigil in Chesapeake to pay tribute to a diverse group of third-shift workers, ages 16 to 70, who unloaded trucks, broke down cardboard boxes and stocked shelves.

Police say they were shot Tuesday night by a store manager, who also died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Six others were injured, some critically.

Doris Manuel, whose nephew Brian Pendleton was among the victims, said she came to show her support for her mother, her sister. Manuel wrote “I love you” on a white makeshift cross in Pendleton’s honor and said she and others around the country are praying for everyone involved.

“We know that when something like this happens, it’s not just us. It’s a whole city, a whole region. Especially this time of year,” she said.

This particular Walmart, still closed after the shooting, sits along a suburban strip of box stores about a half-hour drive from the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. For many here, the store functioned as a de facto community center that facilitated unplanned conversations in the corridors.

“You can run into your doctor, teachers, principals,” Cliff Hayes, a lawmaker in Virginia’s House of Delegates, told The Associated Press before Monday’s vigil. “This was a centralized place that will forever be changed.”

Walmart has more than 4,700 stores across the county and employs about 1.7 million people in the United States. And yet each store can be unique in its own way, said Adam Reich, a sociology professor at Columbia University who co-authored the book, “Working for Respect.” , Community and Conflict at Walmart.”

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The book describes life experiences that drew workers to the company and analyzes dynamics among employees. In some stores — but not all — workers formed strong bonds despite their varied backgrounds, Reich said. And it was often those close relationships that kept Walmart employees in their jobs for long periods of time.

“It’s kind of astonishing that Walmart, on the one hand, is so standardized,” Reich said. “But on the other hand, there’s only so much variety and uniqueness that the workers are able to establish and carve out in their individual shops. I don’t know the history of this shop, but it sounds from what little I’ve read that’s what the workers had done here.”

Shaundrayia Reese, who worked at the Chesapeake store from about 2015 to 2018, told The New York Times that the overnight crew was like family when she was there. “Everybody loved each other,” she told the paper.

The Walmart store employees who died were in various stages of life.

Fernando “Jesus” Chavez-Barron, 16, had just started driving and got his first part-time job at Walmart to help support his family. Kellie Pyle, 52, recently moved back to the region after hooking up with her high school sweetheart. They planned to marry next year.

Randy Blevins, 70, had worked at Walmart for more than 30 years after owning his own 5-and-dime store. Pendleton, 38, had recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at the store and was a “happy-go-lucky” guy who loved to tell jokes.

Lorenzo Gamble, 43, worked there for 15 years as a manager. He was the quiet one in the family and enjoyed going to the 19-year-old’s football matches. Tyneka Johnson, 22, was young and wanted to make her own money. She also had a sense of style and a love of music and dance.

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Police said the shooter left a note claiming he was being harassed and pushed to the brink by a belief his phone was hacked.

The November 22 rampage marked the nation’s second high-profile mass shooting in four days after a man opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and wounding 17.

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