“Love you, Auntie M and Rejoice,” she wrote, signing on behalf of herself and her daughter.
“I’m here to support my sister,” Manuel said, adding that she had stayed a couple of days with Pendleton’s mother after driving down from her home in Gloucester. “This is her oldest son, and shockingly the second child she has lost this year. … She’s a strong woman of faith but something like this is not easy for anyone.”
Killed last Tuesday in the Walmart were Tyneka Johnson, 22; Randall Blevins, 70; Kellie Pyle, 52; Lorenzo Gamble, 43; Fernando Chavez-Barron, 16; and Pendleton, 39. Several others were wounded.
Police identified the shooter as 31-year-old Andre Bing, an overnight supervisor who left a “death note” — a rambling 11-paragraph message that claimed colleagues harassed him, betrayed him, and wanted to get rid of him. He indicated he intended to spare one person, suggesting she, like his deceased mother, had cancer. Police said he purchased the 9mm gun from a local store on the day of the attack.
Chesapeake Mayor Rick West opened the vigil by saying the shooting marked the city’s darkest hour since its creation.
“I cannot think of a better way out of the darkness than a candlelight vigil,” he said.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) said the killings highlighted the need for mental health care, and pledged to work across party lines to enact it. “We have a mental health and a behavioral health crisis in the United States and in Virginia, a crisis that shows up in all facets of our society, in our homes and our schools and our workplace, at times tragically manifesting itself in violence, murder, and in suicides.”
He filled his remarks with Scripture. “My Christian faith says to give me hope in times such as these when I question why terrible, horrific things happen, when I question why we lose innocent loved ones,” he said. “I pray that you may find comfort in the words of our Lord.”
The vigil on Monday night followed one on Sunday organized by the Chesapeake Coalition of Black Pastors at the Mount at Chesapeake church. Dozens of people who had lost someone, knew someone who was wounded or worked at the store stood at the end of a 90-minute service.
Another was held Thursday in the Walmart parking lot, organized by friends and family of 16-year-old Chavez-Barron, the youngest victim in the slaying. A crowd of several dozen recited prayers, beginning as the sun set and lasting into darkness as overhead lights cast long shadows. Congregants released silver balloons into the night sky as the service concluded.
Manuel, who works at the Christian Broadcasting Network, said at Monday night’s vigil that Pendleton’s older sister died in May. The family’s faith in Jesus, she said, was giving them comfort. “We believe in his power,” she said. “The Bible says he is nearer to the brokenhearted.”
Michelle Joachim, who was among those at the Monday night vigil, said the Walmart is “where I buy my eggs and my bread and my bacon.”
“I wasn’t in the store at the time [of the shooting], but this hurts because this is my neighborhood,” she said. “I hurt because we hurt. This is a small town. When people look at us, they talk about violence now instead of the beauty of the bay.”
Jahi Chikwendiu contributed to this report.