WASHINGTON: A gunman shot and killed multiple people in a Walmart store late Tuesday in the US state of Virginia, police said, adding that the single shooter suspect is also dead.
The outburst of gun violence in the city of Chesapeake comes just before Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, and follows another mass shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado late Saturday that left five people dead.
“We were able to find multiple fatalities and multiple injured parties,” Chesapeake Police Department officer Leo Kosinski told reporters at the scene, saying rapid response officers and tactical teams entered the store “immediately” after arriving on the scene.
“We believe it is a single shooter and that single shooter is deceased at this time,” he said, without clarifying how the suspected shooter died.
Emergency calls were first made just after 10:00 pm Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday), while the store was still open.
News footage showed a major police presence at the scene with Kosinski saying several officers and investigators were carefully sweeping the store and securing the area.
The exact number of fatalities remained unclear. Kosinski told reporters that police believed no more than 10 people were killed.
Walmart, the largest retailer in the United States, issued a statement early Wednesday saying: “We are shocked at this tragic event.”
The company added that it was “praying for those impacted, the community and our associates. We´re working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates.”
Virginia state Senator Louise Lucas, who represents the Chesapeake region that lies 150 miles (240 kilometres) southeast of the US capital Washington, said she was “absolutely heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place… in my district.”
“I will not rest until we find the solutions to end this gun violence epidemic in our country that has taken so many lives,” she said on Twitter.
The shooting occurred at a major retailer less than 48 hours before Americans nationwide celebrate Thanksgiving.
“Tragically, our community is suffering from yet another incident of senseless gun violence just as families are gathering for Thanksgiving,” tweeted US congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia.
The incident occurred three nights after a gunman in Colorado, in the country´s Rocky Mountain west, opened fire inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring at least 18, in what is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Authorities said the suspect, identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, had used a long rifle at the club, where partygoers were marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which pays tribute to trans people targeted in violent attacks.
Gun violence occurs at an alarming rate in the United States, where more than 600 mass shootings have occurred so far in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.