Walmart Sued by Employee Who Says She Complained About Gunman
A woman who survived the shooting that killed six employees at a Walmart store in Chesapeake, Va., last week has sued the retailer, saying she warned it months ago of “bullying, threatening and harassing” behavior by the person identified by police as the gunman.
Donya Prioleau, an employee in the Chesapeake Walmart, said in her lawsuit filed on Tuesday that she had lodged a formal complaint against the man, who was a supervisor in the store, after he repeatedly made bizarre and inappropriate comments to her.
Ms. Prioleau’s mother even visited the store in September to warn managers about the employee’s behavior because she was “very concerned for her daughter’s safety,” according to the lawsuit. But she was told that nothing could be done because he was “liked by management,” the lawsuit said.
“We are reviewing the complaint and will be responding as appropriate with the court,” a Walmart spokesman, Randy Hargrove, said in a statement.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court, Ms. Prioleau witnessed the killing of her colleagues and was injured trying to escape.
The lawsuit accuses Walmart of negligent “hiring and retention” practices because of its employee’s “known propensities for violence” and “strange behavior” before the shooting. Ms. Prioleau is seeking $50 million in compensatory damages.
The police said the person they identified as the gunman, Andre Bing, 31, had left a “death note” on his phone in which he said employees at the store had mocked him and compared him to a serial killer. They said he had also noted co-workers he planned to target and others he planned to spare.
The police said he had used a newly acquired 9-millimeter handgun to shoot his colleagues in the store’s break room, then killed himself.
The lawsuit stated that Mr. Bing had made troubling statements, including asking colleagues repeatedly whether they had received active-shooter training. When they told him that they had, he “just smiled and walked away without saying anything,” the lawsuit said.
Ms. Prioleau said he had commented on her age and appearance and harassed her for “being poor and being short.” At one point, she said, he asked her if she liked guns.
Walmart, according to the lawsuit, had demoted Mr. Bing for “improper and disturbing interactions with others,” but then reinstated him as a “team leader.” At the time of the shooting, he was supervising a group of employees who stocked shelves overnight.
Also on Tuesday, the head of Walmart U.S. operations, John Furner, sent out a memo, memorializing the six victims. Fernando Chavez-Barron, 16, an honors student in the 11th grade, had recently started working at the store to help his family, Mr. Furner wrote. Randy Blevins, a “29-year overnight stock associate,” never missed a day of work and “leaves behind his best friend, Teresa, and three stepdaughters.” For Lorenzo Gamble, a custodian, his “greatest joys were football and spending time with his two sons.” Tyneka Johnson, an overnight employee, “dreamed of attending college soon.” Brian Pendleton, a custodian, always arrived early to his shifts and liked to joke around with co-workers. Kellie Pyle left behind two children, a granddaughter and “a fiancé she had recently moved to the region to marry.”
Four other employees were injured on the night of the shooting, Walmart said. Two remained in the hospital.
Mr. Furner added that the Chesapeake store would stay closed for the foreseeable future and that all employees would continue to be paid.
“We’ll work closely with the team to decide how and when we might remodel and reopen in a way that will help them move forward,” he wrote.