By Ebi Kesiena
Investigators are searching the house of a Walmart employee who opened fire at a Virginia store, killing at least six people and wounding at least four more before taking his own life late Tuesday.
The mass shooting in the city of Chesapeake comes just before Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and follows a weekend gun attack at an LGBTQ club in Colorado that left five people dead.
“Chesapeake Police confirm 7 fatalities, including the shooter, from last night’s shooting at Walmart on Sam’s Circle,” the city confirmed on its Twitter account.
Chesapeake Police Department officer Leo Kosinski had earlier told reporters that there had been “multiple fatalities” at the megastore, which local media reported was busy with holiday shoppers.
It was the deadliest store shooting since May when a racist white gunman shot 10 Black people dead at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, according to an NBC News tally.
Emergency calls were first made just after 10:00 pm Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday) while the store was still open, with rapid response officers and tactical teams entering “immediately” after arriving on the scene, Kosinski said.
Local media reported that witnesses said the shooting began at the back of the store and that at least five wounded had been rushed to the hospital.
Police did not provide any details about the suspected shooter’s identity or how the assailant died.
“We believe it is a single shooter and that single shooter is deceased at this time,” Kosinski said, adding he did not believe any shots had been fired by police.
In the hours afterwards, news footage showed a major police presence around the Walmart, which is located about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of the US capital Washington.
Kosinski said officers and investigators were carefully sweeping the store and securing the area.
Walmart, the largest retailer in the United States, issued a statement on Wednesday saying: “We are shocked at this tragic event.”
The company added that it was “praying for those impacted, the community and our associates. We’re working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates.”
Virginia state Senator Louise Lucas, who represents the Chesapeake region, said she was “absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place in her district.”
“I will not rest until we find the solutions to end this gun violence epidemic in our country that has taken so many lives,” she wrote on Twitter.
The shooting occurred at a major retailer less than 48 hours before Americans nationwide celebrate Thanksgiving.
“Tragically, our community is suffering from yet another incident of senseless gun violence just as families are gathering for Thanksgiving,” tweeted Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia.
The incident occurred three nights after a gunman in Colorado, in the country’s Rocky Mountain west, opened fire inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring at least 18, in what is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Authorities said that suspect, identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, had used a long rifle at the club, where partygoers were marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which pays tribute to trans people targeted in violent attacks.
Gun violence occurs at an alarming rate in the United States, where more than 600 mass shootings have occurred so far in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.