[Breaking news update, published at 8:21 a.m. ET]
The gunman who killed six people Tuesday night at a Virginia Walmart was an employee of the store, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky said Wednesday. Solesky said the shooter is believed to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but his identity has not been released because his immediate family has not been notified.
[Previous story, published at 7:31 a.m. ET]
At least six people were shot dead Tuesday night at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, in an attack that occurred within an hour of the store’s scheduled closing time, city officials said early Wednesday morning.
The shooter is dead City officials said.
Investigators were searching the store Wednesday night looking for victims or people who may have been hiding, Chesapeake Police spokesman Leo Kosinski previously told CNN. The police previously reported that there were injuries.
Investigators believe the shooter was an employee or former employee of the store who opened fire on other employees in a break room, a police source told CNN.
Officials believe the gunman turned the gun on himself at one point, according to the source.
Officers responded to the Walmart around 10:12 p.m. — less than an hour before it was due to close — and found victims and evidence of a shooting, Kosinski said.
Five patients were being treated at Sentara General Hospital in nearby Norfolk, Virginia, a Sentara Healthcare spokesperson told CNN affiliate WTKR. An update on their terms was not immediately available.
A press conference was scheduled for Wednesday at 8 a.m., Chesapeake city officials said Twitter.
The shooting, which occurred two days before Thanksgiving as shoppers made last-minute grocery shopping, is yet another example of how gun violence is erupting in American life in places traditionally considered safe, from schools to stores and even hospitals.
At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville — about 170 miles west of Chesapeake — a 22-year-old student allegedly opened fire on fellow students this month, killing three of them on a bus returning to campus from a field trip to Washington. DC.
Last weekend, a 22-year-old shot and killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and injured 19 others, authorities said.
Tuesday’s shooting came as the US has recorded more than 600 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The archive and CNN estimate a mass shooting as one involving at least four dead or injured, not counting the shooter.
Joetta Jeffery told CNN that during the shooting, her mother, Betsy Umphlett, texted her from the store warning her that someone had opened fire.
“I’m crying, I’m shaking,” Jeffery told CNN. “I was just talking to her about buying turkey for Thanksgiving, then this text came in.”
Jeffery said her mother is unharmed but in shock, and they are reunited.
Chesapeake city officials have asked people to stay away from the store during the investigation.
“Our first responders are well trained and prepared to respond; please give them space to do that,” the city said in a tweet.
A reunion center was being set up at the Chesapeake Conference Center, city officials said. They ask that only direct family and emergency contacts of people who were in the store go to the center.
In a statement, Walmart said it was shocked by the tragedy that unfolded at one of its stores.
“We pray for those affected, the community and our partners. We work closely with law enforcement and we are focused on supporting our employees,” the company said in the statement.
The Washington, D.C., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office is assisting local police with the investigation, the agency said on Twitter.