Chesapeake Walmart reopens five months after mass shooting
The once-bustling Walmart Supercenter at Sam’s Circle remained closed in the five months since tragedy struck just before Thanksgiving.
On Wednesday morning, the store opened its doors for the first time since November 22, when an employee shot and killed six of his coworkers and himself.
Roughly 200 people gathered to mark the occasion, including city, state and Walmart officials who held a ceremony before the reopening.
“It is a proud moment for us to be here and to know that we can overcome almost anything,” said Chesapeake Mayor Rick West. “Today does mark a significant milestone.”
Store manager Alycia Mixon emphasized the positive community response to the shooting, particularly among local Walmart employees.
“This was the time where we all came together. We understood that something big happened here,” Mixon said. “It was unprecedented for our company, and no one shied away. Everyone stepped up to the plate.”
Walmart remodeled the store during the closure after emptying it out last year.
Cedric Clark, Walmart’s executive vice president of store operations, said the company now considers it a flagship location.
“Our commitment to you is to have the latest and greatest,” Clark said.
A new outdoor patio space on the side of the store features a plaque for the shooting victims, as well as six benches meant to honor them.
Lines formed at both entrances to the store shortly before it opened.
Chesapeake resident Iola Pasquale was among the first in line. She said she often shopped there before the shooting.
On Wednesday she planned to shop once again, but especially wanted to see a new mural inside of a blue heron flying by the Jordan Bridge, painted by her friend Charlie Frances in the Southside Artists Association.
“I just welcome the reopening, and I’m very happy that they had a memorial for the past,” Pasquale said. “It’s a good thing for the residents of Chesapeake to reopen in spite of the tragedy.”
West said the store will always be linked to the legacy of the six people slain.
“It's my hope that it will also serve as a tangible reminder that Chesapeake is built upon resiliency, upon hope for the future, and most of all, upon living up to the promise that Chesapeake is what we say we are, a city that cares.”
Meanwhile, Walmart faces several pending lawsuits that seek to hold the company accountable for the shooting.
Three Chesapeake employees represented by a firm in Washington, D.C. each sued, saying that Walmart was aware of a troubling pattern of behavior by the shooter and didn't do anything about it. The company has asked a judge to dismiss their lawsuits, claiming the complaints should instead go through the worker compensation sytem.
The estate of 70-year-old victim Randall Blevins, represented by Virginia Beach attorney Greg Sandler, also filed a lawsuit asking for a total of $45 million in damages between Walmart and the shooter’s estate.
The parties filed an order to drop the lawsuit just before a hearing scheduled last month, indicating a settlement could be in the works behind the scenes.