Biden, Virginia leaders react to mass shooting at Chesapeake Walmart
Local, state and federal leaders on Wednesday issued condolences and calls for action following a shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake that left seven dead, including the gunman, and wounded four others Tuesday night.
Several leaders, including President Joe Biden, noted that the tragedy occurred just as Americans began to gather with families for the holiday season.
Biden said in a statement that he and First Lady Jill Biden grieve with the families in Chesapeake and across the commonwealth as families mourn the victims of the shooting at University of Virginia earlier this month.
“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,” Biden said. “But 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.”
He also thanked the first responders who assisted the victims, and called for more gun reform.
“We also mourn for all those across America who have lost loved ones to these tragic shootings that we must come together as a nation to stand against,” he said. “We must take greater action.”
Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a tweet Wednesday that he remains in contact with law enforcement officials and has made resources available for the ongoing investigation.
“Our hearts break with the community of Chesapeake this morning,” Youngkin said. “Heinous acts of violence have no place in our communities.”
He also ordered all flags at half-staff until Sunday at sunset in respect and memory of the victims and their families.
Chesapeake Mayor Rick West called for prayers for the victims, their loved ones and their coworkers.
“I am devastated by the senseless act of violence that took place late last night in our City,” West said in a statement. “Chesapeake is a tight knit community and we are all shaken by this news. Together, we will support each other throughout this time.”
When reached by phone, Vice Mayor John de Triquet said federal and state leaders and elected officials have been “extremely responsive” and supportive.
West told The Virginian-Pilot that the White House sent him a guidebook for how to handle mass shootings that he has found helpful. He commended City Manager Christopher Price and Chesapeake police for keeping city leaders and residents informed.
“We will extend every opportunity we can to assist in any way the families and the victims,” de Triquet said. “It’s obviously a tragedy anytime, but certainly around holiday time. I just think it’s part of the tapestry that we’re seeing in our society that violence is, is everywhere.”
He added that combating violence, however, is a complex issue.
“I don’t think there is a simple solution to this,” he said. “I think it’s complex, and I think it involves not only the public safety issues, but issues that are affecting our society in general.”
But some federal and state lawmakers urged more action, like stricter gun control, for example.
“The Walmart shooting in Chesapeake is horrific. My prayers to all affected and my thanks to brave first responders,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine said in a tweet. “Both Congress and the Virginia General Assembly have taken steps, finally, to reduce gun violence, but there is so much more to do.”
State Sen. Louise Lucas, a Democrat from Portsmouth who also represents part of Chesapeake, said her thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, but that she would be “working tirelessly to fix our gun laws until we stop this violence.”
“Just this year gun violence has stolen the life of Sierra Jenkins - a wonderful young reporter for the @virginianpilot, three members of the @UVA football team, six more victims in a Walmart last night as well as many victims whose names never made a newscast,” she said in a tweet. “Too many families will have an empty seat at their tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas because of our gun violence epidemic.”
State Del. Cliff Hayes Jr., a Democrat who represents Chesapeake and parts of Virginia Beach, said the tragedy was “utterly ridiculous” and “senseless.”
“This has got to end,” he said in a tweet.
George Reed, a director with the New Chesapeake Men for Progress, told The Virginian-Pilot that Tuesday night’s tragedy is a sign that change is needed, particularly with more focus on mental health and tighter gun laws. He called on legislators to “step up to the plate.”
“We always need better gun control and to be alert to the signs that these people may show before the shootings take place,” he said. “We don’t need to accept this as our normal.”
Natalie Anderson, 757-732-1133, email@example.com