At vigil, Chesapeake mayor says mass shooting is city's darkest hour

Posted at 5:59 PM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-29 08:54:30-05

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Somber music and candles filled Chesapeake City Park Monday night as the community came together to mourn and honor the victims of last week's mass shooting at the Walmart on Sam's Circle.

Six people were killed when an employee opened fire at the Walmart location before turning the gun on himself. The victims ranged in age from 16 to 70 years old. Several others were hurt.

Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said the shooting is the city's darkest hour, but the vigil is a step towards healing.

"Sending the message to the six lives that we have lost, we do it with faith and God, his presence, as his light comes over the darkness," West said.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin was also in attendance and spoke Monday night.

"As we struggle to come to grips with these heinous acts here in Chesapeake and just a few weeks ago in Charlottesville, we must not evolve into a sense of national despair," Youngkin said.

Youngkin remembered each of the six victims in his speech and said he grieves with the family members who are hurting the most.

He said there's a mental health and a behavioral health crisis in Virginia and the U.S. He said it's "a crisis that shows up in all facets of our society in our homes and our schools and our workplaces, at times, tragically manifesting itself in violence and murder, and in suicides."

"So I pledge that our administration will work across party lines," Youngkin said. "We will work with all of you, with families, with doctors, with faith leaders, with educators, with law enforcement heroes, with counselors, with business and nonprofit leaders. We will work together to chart a path forward for better mental and behavioral health so that we can serve all Virginians and so that we can love one another."

Community members, friends and family filled the park.

Jesse Allen said he was a relative of Fernando Chavez-Barron, 16, the youngest of the victims. A friend of Chavez-Barron previously told News 3 he had just started working at Walmart when the shooting happened.

"I wanted to support the community, come out here and pray," Allen said.

As the night grew darker, candlelight flooded City Park.

"I graduated with one of the victims, Randy Blevins, in 1970. We felt like we should be here," Lennon Newberry, a Chesapeake resident, said.

Blevins, 70, was the eldest of the employees killed.

"They graduated from Oscar Smith quite a few years ago," Judy Newberry said.

The Newberrys said they often frequented the Walmart on Sam's Circle.

"I was there the day it happened. I was there about 2 o’ clock in the afternoon," Judy Newberry said. "I had done some shopping and then went home. I was shocked when it happened. It was just unbelievable. Unbelievable that it could happen here. I know it happens everywhere, but that it happened here is unbelievable."

Prior to the vigil starting, News 3's Leondra Head caught up with a former Walmart employee, Josh Miller, who said he knew some of the victims.

"I was with a lot of them from the whole year I was there. Randy especially. Me and him were on a team together. His death hurts the most," Miller said. "Lorenzo and Brian, I know them too," Josh Miller said.

Miller said he worked at Walmart in 2020, and he also knew the gunman, Andre Bing. He recalled a few conversations with him.

"You’d be having a conversation with him and throwing jokes. Then all of a sudden he would give you a blank expression. Like you would have no idea what he was thinking," Miller said. "It was just awkward and uncomfortable at times."

There were also prayers led in Spanish at the vigil to honor the culture of the youngest victim.

"To the ones still recovering, with physical and emotional wounds, I just encourage you to be patient and don't let anyone tell you it's time to get over it," said Pastor Jose Morales. "Take all the time you need."

There have been several smaller vigils happening since the tragedy. On Thanksgiving, a crowd of people gathered around a makeshift memorial in front of the Walmart where the shooting took place. People could be seen hugging and consoling each other.

SEE MORE: How you can help the victims' families