- A Walmart employee who survived the mass shooting that killed six people at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, is suing the retailer for $50 million in compensatory damages.
- Plaintiff Donya Prioleau alleges in the lawsuit that Walmart’s management was aware that the supervisor who police identified as the gunman, Andre Bing, had bullied, threatened and harassed employees and that he frequently acted “inappropriately, bizarrely and dangerously.” The complaint also claims the supervisor displayed a long-standing pattern of unsettling behaviors and was “known for being a mean and cruel supervisor.”
- The lawsuit charges Walmart with negligent hiring and retention of the supervisor.
Walmart confirmed to NPR that the person police identified as the gunman had been an employee since 2010 and, at the time of the shooting, was an overnight team lead.
The lawsuit claims that Bing was disciplined several times while working at Walmart and displayed “disturbing” behavior leading up to the shooting, noting that many Walmart employees, including the plaintiff, had witnessed his “bizarre and threatening” behavior. Walmart received “many” complaints about him but continued to keep him employed, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit details several things Bing allegedly said to Prioleau and to store employees, such as saying that he would retaliate if he ever was fired, and claims that he had a “kill list” of potential targets. He had a reputation as someone with a bad attitude who would retaliate against workers over small grievances, according to the lawsuit.
On Sept. 10, Prioleau submitted a formal complaint to Walmart about the supervisor’s behavior, alleging he made inappropriate comments about her age, harassed her and called her a derogatory word, per the lawsuit. That same day, Prioleau’s mother raised concerns to the store’s manager about Prioleau’s safety and asked about what could be done to address them.
The complaint notes that the supervisor was demoted by management at an unspecified time for “improper and disturbing interactions with others, but then reinstated as team lead.”
“Walmart knew or should have known about [the supervisor’s] disturbing and threatening behavior, but failed to terminate [him], restrict his access to common areas, conduct a thorough background investigation or subject him to a mental health examination,” the complaint says.
The shooting happened in the store’s break room on Nov. 22 just days before Thanksgiving, killing six workers and injuring four more.
Prioleau, who has worked for Walmart as an overnight stocker and trainer since May 2021, saw her coworkers get killed and injured, and, while fleeing, she fell and injured her knee and elbow, according to the lawsuit. Due to the shooting, Prioleau is experiencing physical pain, psychological harm, medical bills and lost wages, among other things, the complaint claims.
Prioleau is seeking a jury trial.
“As workplace shootings and violence become horrifyingly common, employers have a responsibility to understand the warning signs and take threats seriously in order to protect their employees and customers. ... We will work to hold Walmart accountable for failing to stop this tragedy,” John Morgan and Peter Anderson, Morgan & Morgan attorneys for the plaintiff, said, in part, in a joint statement.
Walmart said it is reviewing Prioleau’s complaint.
“The entire Walmart family is heartbroken by the loss of the valued members of our team. Our deepest sympathies go out to our associates and everyone impacted, including those who were injured,” the retailer said in a statement. “We are focused on supporting all our associates with significant resources, including counseling. We are reviewing the Complaint and will be responding as appropriate with the court.”
A spokesperson for the retailer also referenced a public memo from Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner to associates on Tuesday. The memo identifies and commemorates the six workers killed and details the steps the company has taken since the shooting, including providing associates access to mental health resources, giving victims’ families financial support and setting up a physical site for associates to talk to counselors.
Furner said the store will remain closed for the foreseeable future and that workers at the location will continue to get paid as the retailer decides whether to remodel and reopen the location.
Separately, Walmart is facing a civil lawsuit brought by at least 20 families impacted by the shooting in 2019 that killed 23 people and wounded 22 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. That suit, which was filed three years ago, has stalled in the courts, a local news station reported in August. The accused gunman in the El Paso slaying is currently awaiting trials on state and federal charges.
The Chesapeake store shooting is the latest in a growing list of violent attacks on retailers’ premises. Between 2000 and 2020, 28 shootings at grocery stores killed 78 people, according to FBI data cited by The Washington Post.
Recent attacks, including a gunman who killed 10 people at a Colorado King Soopers in March 2021, have spurred the grocery industry to strengthen safety measures. In the wake of the King Soopers shooting, the Food Industry Association, for example, has held sessions on workplace violence and made a workplace safety training program available to its members at a discounted rate. A few weeks ago, three Midwestern chains said they added active assailant training.