Walmart shooting suspect had note in phone railing against colleagues

Photo for The Washington Post by Mike Caudill
The Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., where authorities say a supervisor shot and killed six colleagues.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – The Walmart supervisor who authorities say fatally shot six colleagues at the store before taking his own life had a note in his phone that railed against people he perceived to have harassed or betrayed him and hinted at what was to come.

“God forgive me for what I’m going to do,” Andre M. Bing concluded in the note, which the city of Chesapeake released Friday on Twitter. Police also revealed he had purchased the gun used in the attack that very morning from a local store, which they did not identify.

The winding, 11-paragraph note is both accusatory and reflective. Bing wrote he failed God, while denouncing colleagues he claimed harassed him, broke his trust and made “subtle code speeches.” He claimed his phone had been hacked and made references to a “demonic aura.” He indicated he spared one person, suggesting she, like his deceased mother, had cancer.

It was not clear when the note – labeled “Death note” – was written, and portions in which Bing seemed to have named particular people were redacted.

“It’s chilling. It’s just chilling,” Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said Friday. “It’s very clear that he is one sick guy, very disturbed.”

Tuesday night’s shooting plunged this Tidewater Virginia community into mourning over the Thanksgiving holiday. West invited residents to gather Monday evening at City Park, a central gathering spot with 30 acres of replanted pine trees, to grieve together.

Bing’s note provides the clearest indication yet of a possible motive, though his resentment and grievances were hard to follow, and were punctuated by bizarre asides. One relative of a victim said he felt Walmart should have detected earlier that Bing was so angry, and possibly unhinged.

Bing, 31, had worked at Walmart since 2010, most recently as a team lead. Authorities said he targeted some colleagues in a break room, where police found his body.

Charles Crowson, director of Walmart’s corporate communications, said in a statement after the note was released: “There is nothing that can justify taking innocent lives. Our focus continues to be on the families who are grieving and supporting our associates through this difficult time.” Walmart officials did not respond on Friday to questions about whether company managers or others knew of Bing’s purported erratic behavior or whether it was reported to management.

The killings were the latest in a string of high-profile shootings, coming days after a gunman fatally shot five people at a Colorado LGBTQ nightclub and less than two weeks after a University of Virginia student was accused of killing three student-athletes on the football team. Police are still trying to learn motives in those attacks.

Killed in the Walmart attack were Tyneka Johnson, 22, a fashionista with an ebullient personality; Brian Pendleton, 39, who was supposed to work a shift after Thanksgiving dinner; Randall Blevins, 70, who had eschewed retirement to keep working; Kellie Pyle, 52, who had recently reconnected with her high school sweetheart; Lorenzo Gamble, 43, whose mother had put him in charge of some holiday food dishes; and a 16-year-old identified by police on Friday as Fernando Chavez-Barron.

Chesapeake authorities said Bing’s phone was found at the scene of the shooting. Officials described the handgun Bing used as a 9mm that had been legally purchased. They said a search of Bing’s home revealed a box of ammunition, a box for the gun, a receipt and other paperwork. Authorities said Bing had no prior criminal history.

Attempts to reach Bing’s relatives have been unsuccessful. Two neighbors said they saw him only when he mowed his lawn, and it appeared he had few visitors since he bought his house about two years ago.

Bing’s former co-workers have offered mixed views of him in interviews after the shooting. Some described an ordinary guy who was, at most, a bit of a stickler as a supervisor. Others said Bing had self-proclaimed “anger issues,” was “overly aggressive” and had little social life.

Michelle Johnson, Pendleton’s mother, said Bing had tried to fire her son earlier this year, but that he was reinstated after he appealed to higher-ranking Walmart officials. The Washington Post could not immediately confirm that account, and it was unclear whether Bing would have had the authority to terminate an employee.

“I just don’t understand how this all slipped through the cracks,” Johnson said. “It was so evident that this man had something – I feel like he had something against my son.”

Nathan Sinclair, a former Walmart employee who worked the second shift, said Bing “had too many moments where he’d be overly aggressive,” and that he had been written up at least twice by supervisors, though it was not clear why. The Post could not immediately verify the information and Walmart has not responded to an inquiry on discipline.

Billy Pillar-Gibson, whose cousin, Pyle, was killed in the shooting, said he and Pyle didn’t chat much about work, so he’d never heard of Bing before the shooting. He said the FBI provided to victims’ relatives redacted copies of Bing’s note Thursday night, ahead of releasing it to the public.

Pillar-Gibson said the note angered him, raising questions in his mind about how somebody seemingly so troubled could be in a supervisory position.

“How in the world could they not know this guy was, number one, a loose cannon, number two, mentally ill?” Pillar-Gibson said. “It was like he was hearing voices or something.”

He added, “I read it last night and thought, ‘This guy’s insane.’ . . . Walmart completely dropped the ball.”

Pillar-Gibson said the families should be allowed to see an unredacted version of the note, so they will not have to wonder if Bing had mentioned their loved ones by name.

“What I want to know is, was Kellie in that manifesto?” he said.

Some of what Bing described in the note appears to be merely his perceptions of what colleagues did or said to him.

Bing wrote associates teamed up and “laughed and made subtle code speeches which I eventually figured out.” He wrote one person “betrayed me,” though he did not explain how, and that someone was “trying to get rid of me.”

Bing wrote of seeing “twisted grins” from employees who “celebrated my downfall.”

“That’s why they suffer the same fate as me,” he wrote.

He said he wanted a wife but “didn’t deserve” one. He claimed that “bitter seed apricots are the cure for cancer.”

But Bing also blamed himself, writing that he failed God: “This was not your fault but my own.”

West, Chesapeake’s mayor, said authorities did not tell him they were releasing Bing’s note to relatives of people killed or to the public until his wife spotted it on the news Friday morning. By late afternoon, West said he hadn’t been able to bring himself to read it in its entirety.

The mayor said that over the past few days, he had been getting mixed messages about Bing. The 31-year-old seemed at a minimum to have been a tough manager people had a hard time getting along with, but people also reported enjoying their jobs at Walmart.

The note, West said, made it clear that Bing had deeper issues.

West said his focus now is on Monday’s vigil, and his “immediate goal is to bring this city together, to show these families we love and support them, and we’ll do anything we can to get them through this.”

The city’s vigil will not be the first. Near sunset Thursday night, a few people arrived at the Walmart with balloons. Instead of visiting the small memorial there, they stood in the parking lot.

Over the next few minutes, dozens more gathered, all with the same square silver balloons. A young man said they were there for a friend. It was Chavez-Barron, the slain 16-year-old. Eventually, the group walked to a tree and encircled a woman holding a baby. She began call-and-response prayers in Spanish, which continued for 45 minutes, as family and friends of the teen cried out.

The family declined an interview.