Local, national violent incidents create worry

Violent incidents on Wesleyan Drive, at a Walmart in Chesapeake, in Colorado Springs and at the Universities of Virginia and Idaho cause the campus community to reflect.

A series of violent occurrences on Wesleyan Drive, at a Walmart in the City of Chesapeake, at University of Virginia and at University of Idaho have brought attention to the gun violence that envelopes the VWU community.

On the night of Nov. 22, a mass shooting at the Sam’s Circle Walmart in Chesapeake tragically caused the deaths of 7 people, including the shooter, Andre Bing, who took his own life.

The mass shooting and the feeling of loss is depicted in the words of President Joe Biden, who commented on the Chesapeake shooting alongside the attack on students at the University of Virginia on Nov. 13.

“Because of yet another horrific and senseless act of violence, there are now even more tables across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving. There are now more families who know the worst kind of loss and pain imaginable,” Biden said.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin tweeted that he was in close contact with law enforcement officials. “Heinous acts of violence have no place in our communities,” he said. Youngkin ordered all flags to stay at half-mast until Sunday in remembrance of the victims and their families.

On Nov. 25, The Virginian-Pilot reported that the Chesapeake police released a note written on Bing’s phone, which explained his actions. In his letter entitled “death note,” Bing said that he felt “mocked” and “harassed” by his coworkers and said that he believed his phone had been hacked.

Bing included several names of coworkers, which the police redacted, and even included a conversation between coworkers in which Bing heard them discussing that someone had been trying to get rid of Bing “since day one.”

In the note, Bing apologized for his actions. “Sorry everyone but I did not plan this I promise things just fell in place like I was led by the Satan,” he said. Similarly, Bing ended the note with the words “My God forgive me for what I’m going to do.”

According to police confirmation, Bing used a legally bought 9mm handgun that was purchased the morning of the shooting. NPR reported that police officers found the receipt and a box of ammunition at Bing’s home.

Police said that Bing had no criminal history prior to the shooting.

The names of the six Walmart employees that Bing shot are Tyneka Johnson, 22; Randall Blevins, 70; Lorenzo Gamble, 43; Brian Pendleton, 38; Kellie Pyle, 52; and Fernando Chavez-Barron, 16.

In an online message to U.S. employees, Walmart U.S President and CEO John Furner said that Walmart will pay for funerals, travel and other expenses for the families of the deceased.

In addition, Furner said the Chesapeake Walmart will remain closed for the foreseeable future, while employees will continue to receive pay. 

Currently, Walmart is facing a $50 million lawsuit from employee Donya Prioleau, who said she narrowly missed being shot by Bing. The Virginian-Pilot reported that Prioleau had been raising complaints about Bing’s behavior months before the shooting occurred.

The lawsuit said ¨Mr. Bing was known for being a ‘mean and cruel supervisor,’” a fact which becomes chilling when it is considered that Bing ¨repeatedly¨ asked co-workers if they had active shooter training. The lawsuit said that upon response, Bing would simply smile and walk away.

A second $50 million lawsuit was filed by James Kelly, a Wamart employee hired on Aug. 1, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Kelly said that he reported Bing for harassing and badgering him during his employment.

The lawsuit said that at some point prior to the shooting, Bing told Kelly, “I don’t care how big you are. I have something to take care of that.” The lawsuit also corroborated the story of Bing asking employees if they had received active shooter training.

Kelly has since experienced post-traumatic stress disorder with physical and emotional effects, including nightmares, severe anxiety and flashbacks.

From the time of being served the lawsuit, Walmart has 21 days to respond.

The Chesapeake shooting was followed by two back-to-back shootings in Virginia Beach on the night of Nov. 23.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that at 7:25 p.m., police responded to a shooting at the Pizza Hut at the 5300 block on Wesleyan Drive. One victim was found dead at the scene across the parking lot from the Pizza Hut.

Roughly 10 minutes later, police responded to a shooting at the Food Lion at the 700 block of Independence Blvd. Two people were shot and taken to the hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

These local shootings coincide with recent violence at universities across the country. 

On Nov. 13, three University of Virginia students were killed by Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., another student at UVA. All four students were a part of the UVA football team and were returning from a school field trip. Jones also shot two other students who were taken to the hospital.

That same morning, four students attending the University of Idaho were stabbed to death in an off-campus home. After investigation, the police have yet to identify a suspect, even after sifting through over 1,000 tips and conducting more than 150 interviews, CNN said.

CNN also reported, on Nov. 23, that at that point in 2022, 3,179 people had been shot during mass shootings, resulting in 637 deaths. A mass shooting, according to the FBI, is a shooting that has four or more victims, so the statistic does not account for homicides or shootings with less than that number of people.

In response to the shooting at UVA, the Office of Campus Life sent an email to the school community detailing protocol in the event of a crisis situation. The email, signed by Senior Vice President Keith Moore, emphasized the importance of calling campus security or 911 if any member of the community is in danger or witnesses something suspicious.

After calling for help, the pamphlet encourages the use of the Run-Hide-Fight method, which emphasizes the importance of quickly and quietly removing oneself from a situation when possible. Fighting is a last resort, the information said, and should be used only when one’s life is in imminent danger.

The Norfolk branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigations has scheduled an active threat presentation during the Spring 2023 semester. 

On Thursday, Dec. 1, a memorial entitled “A Time of Remembrance” was hosted by the Robert Nusbaum Center at the Monumental Chapel. As attendees filed in and decorated a small tree with paper hearts, they were moved to silence, the only sound being that from the pianist, Robert Shoup, director of Music at Second Presbyterian Church in Norfolk.

After a moving song urging listeners to “Heal the world,” Shoup turned the stage over to Dr. Craig Wansink, director of the Robert Nusbaum Center and senior pastor at the Second Presbyterian Church in Norfolk.

Wansink welcomed attendees with a brief message. He dedicated the memorial to three purposes: to mourn, to pray and to act. Each is as important as the others, as each is a method of moving forward to heal the world from the violence around us.

The service then moved into attendees reading quotes from survivors and those affected by violence, followed by a prayer led by Chaplain Marie Porter. The variety of voices and messages within the quotes and prayer brought attendees together in pain and hope for the future.

In a final message, all were urged to act. With carefully selected quotes from Fred Rogers, Philippians, a monk and Theologian Gerhard Frost, Wansink conveyed to listeners that acting could be as simple as an everyday purpose to make oneself a beacon of light and hope.

In addition to the “A Time of Remembrance” event, another memorial to honor victims of anti-LGBTQ+ violence was hosted by Spectrum, the Gender, Women and Sexuality Program and the Nusbaum Center on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

With the recent frequency of violence around VWU and across the nation, now is a time for the campus community to come together to support each other in a time of fear and mourning.

By Rhian Tramontana