A US Walmart manager opened fire on fellow employees gathered in the break room of a Virginia shop, a witness said on Wednesday. Six people died in the country’s second high-profile mass shooting in just a few days.
The gunman, who apparently killed himself, was dead when police found him, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky said. There was no clear motive for the shooting, which also resulted in four people being admitted to hospital.
The shop in Chesapeake, about 65km south-east of Washington, was busy just before the attack on Tuesday night, with people stocking up ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a shopper told a local TV station.
Employee Briana Tyler said that workers had gathered in the shop's break room as they typically did before their shifts.
“I looked up, and my manager just opened the door and he just opened fire,” she told ABC, adding that “multiple people” dropped to the floor.
“He didn’t say a word, he didn’t say anything at all,” she said.
President Joe Biden described the shooting as "yet another horrific and senseless act of violence".
"Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of our most cherished holidays that brings us together as Americans and as families, when we hug our loved ones and count our blessings," Mr Biden said in a statement.
But because of the shooting, "there are now more families who know the worst kind of loss and pain imaginable".
Police spokesman Leo Kosinski said officers responded “in an active shooter fashion at 10.15pm" local time. He said that in a period of 30 to 45 minutes, police found “multiple fatalities and multiple injured parties”, including the gunman.
Mr Kosinski said he did not believe police had fired shots, but could not say whether the gunman had killed himself.
The attack comes days after a mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Colorado that left five people dead and 19 wounded. The toll could have been much worse had an Iraq war veteran not stopped the attack by tackling the gunman.
Virginia was still reeling from a shooting last week in which three University of Virginia American football players were killed.
A database run by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks every mass killing in America going back to 2006 shows that this year has been especially bad.
The US has now had 40 mass killings so far this year, second to the 45 that occurred for all of 2019. The database defines a mass killing as at least four people killed, not including the killer.
Mike Kafka, a spokesman for Sentara Healthcare, told The Associated Press that five patients from the Walmart shooting were being treated at the nearby Norfolk General Hospital. Their conditions were not immediately available.
Local news outlets said the FBI had been drafted in to help with the investigation.
“We believe it was a single shooter … but as of right now we believe that one shooter is deceased,” he said.
Walmart said it was shocked by the incident.
“We’re working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates,” the retailer tweeted.
Local police tweeted that a family reunification site has been set up at the Chesapeake Conference Centre. This site is only for immediate family members or the emergency contact for those who may have been in the building.
Former employee at the store, Camille Buggs, 58, told The Virginia Pilot that she saw the incident on the news and headed to the reunification site to check up on former co-workers.
“You don't think it will happen in your town, in your neighbourhood, in your favourite store. That's the thing that has me shocked,” she said.
Mark Warner, senior US Senator for Virginia, tweeted that he was “sickened by reports of yet another mass shooting, this time at a Walmart in Chesapeake”.
Virginia Senator Louise Lucas echoed Mr Warner’s sentiment, tweeting that she was “absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place in a Walmart in my district”.
Agencies contributed to this report.