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'Face the reality of it' | Chesapeake community still healing one week after six were killed

It’s now been a week since a Walmart employee shot and killed six of his co-workers before turning the gun on himself.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — It’s now been one week since a Walmart employee shot and killed six people and injured several others in Chesapeake.

Even seven days later, people are still coming to the memorial site to lay flowers, light candles and build crosses.

People are still trying to process what happened.

Now, Walmart CEO John Furner is sharing more about the victims.

In a memo sent to associates, we learned Randy Blevins worked as an overnight stock associate and never missed a day of work in 29 years. He leaves behind his best friend Teresa and three stepdaughters.

Fernando “Jesus” Chavez-Barron was an 11th-grade honor student who just started working at the store as a front-end associate to help his family.

That memo also said Lorenzo Gamble worked at the store for 15 years as a custodian. His two joys were football and spending time with his two sons.

Tyneka Johnson worked as an overnight associate. She loved music, dancing and dreamed of attending college soon.

Brian Pendleton worked for 10 years as a custodian. They say he always arrived early and loved to joke with his colleagues.

Overnight Associate Kellie Pyle leaves behind two children, a granddaughter and a fiancé she had recently moved to the region to marry. 

Four other employees were injured. Two of them remain in the hospital.

"It’s just emotional because it’s extremely sad," said Chesapeake Mayor Rick West.

He had COVID-19 when the shooting happened and was unable to go to the scene. However, he and other city leaders hosted a vigil Monday night. He said around 1,500 showed up to honor the victims.

Tuesday, he paid his respects at the memorial for the very first time.

"I guess it’s sort of like Monday morning after church on Sunday. You go and you have to face the reality of it all and so that’s what I’m feeling today," he said.

West said even now, seven days later, it's still hard to wrap your mind around.

"Just riding up here talking to my wife about it, we just could not imagine somebody doing something like this. Just can’t imagine how anyone could be that sick or that evil."

Mike McIntosh brought flowers to the growing memorial on Tuesday. He said his sister works at the Walmart but wasn’t there when the shooting happened.

"Some idiot had come up and didn’t think about nobody except hate and killed innocent people," he said. "There’s too much hate and not enough love in the world."

He said he imagines it will be difficult for his sister to return to work.

"You’re going to have that in your mind all the time, working in a store like that knowing that six people got killed here, you know. You’re not ever going to forget that."

Vernon Griffin came to pay his respects with his grandson. He said his son was extremely close with one of the victims.

"Brian Pendleton was one of the most wonderful people, very respectable young man," he said.

Griffin said his family and the entire community are hurting.

"This was a senseless death but this is one thing I can say, it seems like only the good die young," he said. "None of us will ever be the same."

Mayor West said the next step is for the city to make sure the families of the victims have what they need to begin to heal.

As a city leader, he said you hope something like this never happens in your town.

"You can’t predict, but because it’s so prevalent throughout our country, you can’t ever say it can never happen here. So, if you’re any type of leadership position, you have to consider the possibility, which is sad in itself."

He said he’s not surprised to still see person after person driving by the memorial days later

"I guess it’s sort of the same reason we came here, you know. It just doesn’t go away, it’s there even when you’re not talking about it. It’s in the back of your mind. So maybe if you can come here and get a little resolve, maybe that’s what we’re all looking for."

In that same memo from Walmart CEO John Furner, he said this Walmart will remain closed for the foreseeable future. However, all associates will continue to be paid.

"We’ll work closely with the team to decide how and when we might remodel and reopen in a way that will help them move forward," he said in the memo.

The CEO also said The Walmart Foundation will contribute $1 million to the United Way of South Hampton Roads’ Hope & Healing Fund. That fund will help support those impacted by the shooting and the broader Chesapeake community.

Walmart will also provide a 2:1 match for associate donations to this fund as part of their Season of Giving Back campaign.

"Thank you so much for supporting each other during this unthinkable time. Most of all, we extend our deepest condolences and support to those who lost a loved one last Tuesday. We’re so sorry, and we’re here for you," wrote Furner.

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