After Chesapeake shooting, tears and resolve at vigil
With hundreds of flames illuminating faces in the darkness at Chesapeake’s City Park, Mayor Rick West reflected on the tremendous power of a tiny candle.
“Our friends of the Jewish faith will celebrate the Festival of Light in just a few weeks, where candles remind them of the faith that they have and that they are in the presence of God. In Christianity, candles represent the light of Christ, the path of eternal salvation with our Heavenly Father. The Indian Festival of Lights, Diwali, uses candles to symbolize the power of light over darkness,” he said.
Monday night, in the park, West called on residents of all faiths to light a candle in honor of the six victims of last week’s mass shooting at a city Walmart.
The shooting happened two days before Thanksgiving and about a week after a shooting at the University of Virginia.
Fernando Chevez-Barron, 16, Lorenzo Gamble, 43, Brian Pendleton, 38, Tyneka Johnson, 22, Randy Blevins, 70, and Kellie Pyle, 52, were killed at the Walmart.
The shooter also died from what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left a note, writing that he felt other employees "mocked" and "betrayed" him. It’s not clear if he was referring specifically to any of the victims.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke about mental health immediately following the shooting and again during his remarks at the vigil.
He said it was important for Virginians to move forward with an “unyielding determination to change the conditions of our society that have increasingly bred a culture of despair, of disillusion and a lack of respect for human life.”
Police have not said if the shooter had a diagnosis or had previously shown signs of mental illness.
“I’m not alone in concluding that we have a mental health and behavioral health crisis in the United States and in Virginia, a crisis that shows up in all facets of our society,” Youngkin said in Chesapeake. “I pledge that our administration will work across party lines. … We will work together to chart a path forward for better mental and behavioral health, so that we can serve all Virginians and so that we can love one another.”
Following a 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, former Gov. Ralph Northam called a special legislative session in an attempt to pass gun-related legislation.
Lawmakers have about a month and a half before returning to Richmond for a regular General Assembly session beginning Jan. 11, 2023.
Shortly before Monday’s vigil, Chesapeake City Council approved a state of emergency declaration for the shooting at a special meeting. Council members voted unanimously with no discussion or statements at the minutes-long meeting.
City officials said the declaration will free up potential funding to help support recovery from the mass shooting. They have not yet specified any funding they plan to seek.
“We pledge our continued support for their families, co-workers and those who were injured,” Mayor West said at the vigil. “Tonight, as I told many of the families already, it's just the beginning. There is much to do to find emotional, spiritual and financial healing. And because we are truly a city that cares, not just in slogan, but in action, we will be there with you, and we will do this together and we will do it in His light.”