CHESAPEAKE, Va. – Flags across Virginia were at half-staff Wednesday, hours after a store manager opened fire at a Walmart in Chesapeake, killing six people. a wave of deadly gun violence continued to sweep the nation.

Chesapeake police spokesman Leo Kosinski said officers who responded to a 911 call Tuesday night found several injured or hiding inside the store, and that rescue and tactical teams rolled in to provide “lifesaving measures.”

At least six survivors were taken to local hospitals, one in critical condition, city officials said.

“You hope a day like this never comes, but we train for it, we practice, we talk about it, we learn lessons,” City Manager Chris Price said at a briefing Wednesday. “You hope these lessons are never used.”

Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Salesky said the first 911 call came in at 10:12 p.m., and the first responders arrived two minutes later. The gunman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the gun was recovered at the scene, Saleski said.

The bodies of the two victims and the shooter were found in the store’s break room, city officials said on social media. One body was found outside the front of the store, and three other victims were taken to local hospitals but died from their injuries.

Walmart identified the gunman as Andre Bing, a “gang leader” who has worked for the company since 2010.

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“He literally just started shooting”

Staff member Briana Tyler told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that workers had gathered in the store’s break room at the start of their shift when a man, the manager, walked in and without saying a word started shooting.

“He literally started shooting all over the break room,” she said. “And I watched several people just fall to the floor, whether they were trying to dodge or they were hit… It was looking right at me, but luckily it missed my head by an inch or two.”

Employee Jessie Wilchevski said HVALI-TV that she was hiding under a table when the shooter looked at her with a gun pointed at her and then told her to go home.

“It didn’t even seem real until you felt it … ‘pow-pow-pow,’ you can feel it,” Wilczewski said. “I couldn’t hear it at first because I guess it was so loud, I could feel it.”

Joetta Jeffrey told CNN she received text messages from her mother, who was inside the store when the shots rang out. Her mother, Betsy Umphlett, was not injured.

“I’m crying, I’m shaking,” Jeffrey said. “I was just talking to her about buying turkeys for Thanksgiving and then I got this message.”

Biden, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, offers support and condolences

President Joe Biden issued a statement thanking first responders and pledging support and assistance. He cited the gun reform law passed earlier this year and called for “more proactive action” to curb gun violence.

“Due to yet another horrific and senseless act of violence, there are even more empty tables this Thanksgiving,” the statement said. “There are now more families experiencing the worst loss and pain imaginable.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was assisting in the investigation. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who ordered flags to be flown at half-mast by Sunday, said he was making state resources available.

“Our hearts go out to the Chesapeake community this morning,” he said. “Heinous acts of violence have no place in our communities.”

Mayor Rick W. West also praised the efforts of first responders in a statement posted on Twitter.

“I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that took place in our city late last night,” West tweeted. “Chesapeake is a close-knit community and we are all shocked by this news.”

Anxiety and rumors spread within hours of the attack. At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, city officials tweeted a message warning that “rumors of an active shooter at Target in Chesapeake are NOT TRUE. Please help us control the rumors by only reporting from this account.”

Comedian and former Saturday Night Live host Jay Pharoah, a native of the city, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my city and my anger grows at the excess of this action. Right in my backyard, right where I grew up. Chesapeake is strong and we will continue to be, but this has to stop. Too many innocents have died and not enough care is taken to change that.’

Mary Gleeson, 73, a housewife from nearby Great Bridge, was shopping in the area. Gleason, who said she sometimes stops at Walmart, heard about the shooting on the news.

“I thought I’d stop by and offer my condolences, you might say,” Gleason said.

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The Chesapeake shooting is the latest in a string of deadly attacks

The shooting in Chesapeake was the latest incident to rock the country in days massacre at a prominent LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, Coloradowhere five people died.

Earlier this month three University of Virginia football players were killed and two more people were hospitalized after a campus shooting — the same day four Idaho State University students were found dead with multiple stab wounds.

The database is maintained by USA TODAY, the Associated Press and Northeastern University which has been tracking mass killings since 2006, has 40 mass killings this year, down from 45 in all of 2019. The database identifies a mass killing of at least four people killed without regard to the killer.

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Families, friends search for information about loved ones at Walmart

In Chesapeake, police tweeted that a family reunification area had been set up at the Chesapeake Convention Center. Among those who gathered outside early Wednesday was Camille Buggs, a former Walmart employee who spoke The Virginian Pilot she hoped to learn the fate of some of her former colleagues whom she had been unable to contact since the shooting.

“You always say you don’t think this is going to happen in your town, your neighborhood, your store, your favorite store,” said Bugs, 58, of Chesapeake. “That’s what shocked me.”

Stunned employees also gathered at a nearby Sam’s Club, where attendance was counted. This is reported by WAVY-TV. Police said all officers were accounted for.

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Walmart at El Paso, Texaswas the scene of one of the country’s deadliest attacks in 2019, when a gunman who police said targeted Mexicans killed 22 people.

Walmart released a statement on Twitter Early Wednesday: “We are shocked by this tragic event at our store in Chesapeake, Virginia. We are praying for those affected, the community and our associates. We are working closely with law enforcement and are focused on supporting our associates.”

Sen. Mark Warner tweeted that he was “disturbed by reports of yet another mass shooting, this time at a Walmart in Chesapeake.”

State Sen. Louise Lucas echoed Warner’s sentiments, tweeting that she was “absolutely devastated that the latest mass shooting in America happened at a Walmart in my neighborhood.”

Where is Chesapeake, Virginia located?

Chesapeake is a city of about 250,000 people located 100 miles southeast of Richmond. The city is located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, just a few miles from the Virginia Beach oceanfront and downtown Norfolk.

“Chesapeake offers an endless array of outdoor activities, great shopping, phenomenal food and wonderful wildlife,” according to the city’s website. “Here you’ll find an impressively diverse collection of geography that includes urban delights, rural masterpieces and an endless menu of outdoor and indoor entertainment options.”

Contributed by Paul Bibeau; Charles Ventura, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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