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At This Hour

6 Walmart Employees Killed By Manager In VA Store; Survivor: Walmart Shooter Held Gun To My Head, Said Go Home; Colorado LGBTQ+ Nightclub Shooting Suspect Held Without Bail; Justice Dept: Prosecutors Seek Testimony From Pence In 1/6 Probe; Balloons Fly Over New York City In Macy's Thanksgiving Parade; Elton John Gives Surprise Performance At Saks Window Unveiling. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 24, 2022 - 11:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At this hour, new details about the six victims killed in Virginia in the latest episode of gun violence. Another community left mourning on this Thanksgiving holiday. The Justice Department reaching out to former Vice President Pence, a step that could lead to him testifying in the DOJ's January 6 investigation. And twin babies spending their first Thanksgiving in the U.S. after a group stepped up to rescue them from a Russian orphanage, is that we're watching at this hour.

And welcome to a special Thanksgiving edition of At This Hour. Thanks for joining me. I'm Erica Hill in today for Kate Bolduan. Officials have now identified the six Walmart employees who were killed at Virginia store by their manager. And we want to remember them. Lorenzo Gamble, Kellie Pyle, Brian Pendleton, Tyneka Johnson, Randy Blevins, and a 16-year-old young man whose name has not been released due to his age.

That deadly rampage started an hour before the store was set to close on Tuesday night. Survivors say the gunman opened fire on co-workers in a break room before killing himself. Police are still searching for a motive this morning as we're hearing more harrowing stories of survival.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live this morning in Chesapeake, Virginia. And Dianne, most importantly, we are learning more about these lives that were taken, about the victims. How are they being remembered?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Erica there is a small vigil that has popped up here at the scene. It's still roped off, as you can see behind me with crime scene tape as investigators are back out here looking for evidence, trying to determine that motive. But people wanted to honor those in their community who they lost.

Those six people, those names that you just read off there, they range in age from 16 to 70 years old. And every single one of them were employed here at Walmart. They were simply at work that night, just about an hour before the store closed. And what is a very busy season, of course, for stores like Walmart heading into today, Thanksgiving.

We're told that they were -- most of them in a team meeting right before the shift was to begin. We spoke with some of the former employees, people who worked with them, talking about Brian Pendleton, for example, who worked on maintenance and had been there for, they said, a really long time. It was just sweet that he worked to help people, those that he trained. He liked to mentor people and was just a good colleague.

This being an overnight shift, Erica. So many of the individuals we talked to, the survivors, the employees who weren't there that day, talked about it being even more like a family, which made this even more difficult for them to come to terms with what happened. Saying that that 31-year-old shooter, Andre Bing, who was an overnight team lead, a supervisor or manager of sorts, shooting them in that break room, the majority of them, and talking to these survivors, what they said that they were able to get out of.

But now there are questions, of course, or why he would do this, Erica. Just -- they said that he had established sort of a strange and sometimes threatening presence with them, but they never imagined it would ever end like this.

HILL: Yes, just horrific. Dianne, appreciate it. Thank you.

As we are learning more, last night, I spoke with one survivor of the shooting who told me her harrowing story of the moment the gunman put a gun to her head and how she managed to leave unharmed. Take a listen.

JESSIE WILCZEWSKI, WALMART SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Before every shift, we have meeting in the break room right at 10:00. And mostly everybody was in there. And the meeting just started. And all of a sudden, I looked straight instead of looking off where I was -- where the other guy was talking and the other team lead is in the doorway. And he's got his hands like that.

And at first, it didn't even look real. It didn't register as real. The only thing that made it real was the vibrations hitting your chest and the ringing from the gun going off and it just kept going and going and going. And I got under the table and he left the room and went left down the hallway.


And I was looking at my other co-workers around me, on the floor and I know were in the chair. And I didn't want to be loud. I didn't want him to hear me and make him mad, to make him come back, because I don't even know where he went. And I didn't leave, I stayed. I couldn't -- I wouldn't want to be left alone even if they weren't there or if they were there, I don't even know.

I tried really hard not to look. And the sound of the droplets, replace and replace and replace and replace, of how much blood was coming off the different chairs. It was making a rhythm, and it was one of the most disturbing things. I think we'll never let go of that. HILL: And it's understandable. So you're under the table then for safety. You talk about feeling the bullets as the shots rang out, feeling that in your chest, hearing the blood from your co-workers, watching them in those moments.

As I understand it, the shooter did look at you at one point. And basically --

WILCZEWSKI: Until the end. Very end. I was hiding underneath the table and he told me to come out and I had my bag, and I put my bag out first as like, please, I don't have anything. You see my hands, type thing. Just get out under the -- from under neath of the table and I'm shaking, and I probably look like a Chihuahua at that point.

And he just had the gun up to my forehead and, yes, it's really hard.

HILL: Did he say anything to you in that moment, Jessie?

WILCZEWSKI: He told me to go home. And he took the gun away from my forehand. He was aiming it at the ceiling and he said, Jessie, go home. They got up real slow. And I tried not to look at everybody on the ground or even look, and I had to touch the door, which was covered.

And I walked out the double doors to where you can see the aisles to Walmart. And I made it right to where the egg aisles start. And I just remember gripping my bag and thinking, if he can shoot me in the back, well, he's going to have to try really hard cause I'm running. And I booked it, I booked it, and I didn't stop until I got to my car. And then I had a meltdown in my car.


HILL: Jessie just one of so many who will be dealing with that aftermath and that trauma. And of course, just a few days before that shooting at the Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, a mass shooting in Colorado that left five people dead inside an LGBTQ plus bar. The alleged shooter appeared bloodied, slumped over in their first court appearance yesterday. The suspect is being held without bail, facing murder and potential hate crime charges.

CNN's Nick Watt is live this morning in Colorado Springs with the very latest for us. Nick, good morning.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. Well, as you mentioned, the suspect being held in this jailhouse right behind me on arrest warrant charges, five counts of first-degree murder, and those bias-related charges. But what investigators and prosecutors are now trying to really get at is the motive.

Now, listen, when you walk into the only gay bar in town and start shooting, that certainly looks like targeted hate, but they need to prove that. Not much of a social media footprint from this suspect, but definitely signs of a troubled upbringing, parents who weren't always around, parents who had their own issues. So motive is what they are trying to narrow down. They are interviewing a lot of people. And yesterday, we spoke to one of the suspect's neighbors. They were good friends. They bonded over video games, played video games regularly. And this man, Xavier Kraus, the neighbor told us that this suspect would occasionally have outbursts that he described as coming from a place of anger.


They were on at least one occasion directed at the gay community. We're told that the suspect used a slur to describe gay people. But Kraus also said that most of the outbursts were actually directed at people of other races. So motive is going to be key. December 6, formal charges are expected. Erica?

HILL: Nick Watt with the latest. Appreciate it, my friend. Thank you.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Jonathan Wackrow and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, let's pick up in Colorado where Nick just left off there. There's so much talk about hate crime charges, about bias crimes. Colorado's laws actually changed recently. It was rewritten last year.

So no longer have to prove that hate or bias was the sole motivation in a crime, only part of it. What will prosecutors need to show, Joey, to prove that this was, in fact, a factor in this deadly attack?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Erica, good morning to you and my friend, Jonathan. You know, just a horrific set of circumstances. So ultimately, we know that there are the murder charges themselves. And based upon that, there's a life sentence that will be imposed upon a conviction.

However, it's very important that prosecutors, and being the voice for those who were ultimately impacted, that they speak for everyone. And if there is a bias-related charge that is anticipated right to be filed here, that that bias-related charge encompasses what the motivations of the shooter was.

To your point, Erica, based upon the change of the law, where you don't have to establish that it was, you know, the sole factor, but simply a motivating factor, what ends up happening is is that they're going to have to do that through circumstantial evidence. What does that mean? That means that if you look at what happened with regard to what the shooter did, you came to a location. That location had a number of people in a protected class. They were celebrating a particular event. What else were you doing?

In addition to that, they'll look at his social media blueprint, they'll talk to people who know him with regard to what enemies he had, if any, relating to, you know, protected class of people. And I think prosecutors will use that as powerful evidence to establish that he was motivated by that hatred and that animus towards a protected class of people who were just going a night and unfortunately had their lives taken and altered in other circumstances forever.

HILL: Jonathan, as we look at the situation in Virginia, the suspect there is dead, as we know. Walk us through how police will try to determine the motive.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen, you know, motivations vary, you know, significantly in all of these different shooting incidents, but tragically, the outcomes are consistent. It's the loss of life. And, you know, absent of a clear motive with shooters in these active shooter situations.

What we can do is try to understand from a threat perspective what is the commonality of all these incidents. And there's two key factors here I want to key in on. One, is that targeted acts of violence are typically in response to some sort of grievance. And the second part is that in nearly all of these instances that have been studied by the Secret Service, the National Threat Assessment Center is that threatening and concerning communication have been made prior to the attack by the attacker.

So those are two key indicators that, you know, we know are coming through a whole study of mass shootings. So specific in what happened in Virginia. What we do know is that when violence actually comes from an employee, there's a greater chance that warning signs were observed by co-workers in advance of this attack. And this is what, you know, investigators are going to key in on.

They're going to look at what were the behavioral anomalies prior to this incident. Were there any concerning communications made? And we have had from CNN's own reporting, the answer is yes. Co-workers had actually, you know, indicated that he had made threatening statements before.

So this goes to the next part of that which is how do we solve for that, right? If we're making these concerning threats in advance of an attack, what are we doing about it? And it's not the sole responsibility of a corporation, a law enforcement or behavioral health specialist. It needs to be a shared fate amongst everybody to identify this threatening behavior in advance and then you will mitigate it prior to getting to this tragic incident.

HILL: In terms if -- as you point out, it's not just on one party here. This needs to be a collective effort. But Joey, if in fact, Walmart had been made aware of some of what these employees have told CNN about this, about the shooter, what he was like as a leader, that he was threatening, saying disturbing things, could Walmart be held accountable?

JACKSON: So it's very problematic for the following reasons, Erica. What happens is, is that certainly, a place of employment has a duty and obligation to keep their employees safe.


You have human resource offices for the sole purpose of going and saying, look, there's something amiss with a particular individual. Do something about it, right? There are certain signs that they're exhibiting that we want you to take action. That's it's important, Erica, because it puts the employer on notice as to the conduct or the misconduct of the employee. The issue arises because of a workplace incident as to whether or not the employer is immunized. That if they have immunity because it's a workplace situation as to something that happens with employees, you have workers compensation laws that immunize based upon things happening at work, the liability of an employer, and there's good reasons to have that. But in the context of shooting, it's a much more difficult situation to establish liability.

HILL: Joey Jackson, Jonathan Wackrow, good to have you both here. I hope you both have a nice holiday. Thank you.

WACKROW: Thanks, Erica.

JACKSON: Thank you very much.

HILL: Just ahead, the Justice Department wants to hear from a witness, what a front row seat to what was happening not only at the Capitol insurrection, but perhaps what was or was not happening at the White House on January 6. Can prosecutors convince former VP Mike Pence to talk?



HILL: President Biden and the First Lady honoring some of America's first responders this Thanksgiving. The first family stopping by a firehouse in Nantucket to thank the folks there for keeping the community safe. Biden also seen chatting with the crew for several minutes. He dropped off what looked like a couple of pies.

Turn now to the investigation into the Capitol insurrection. CNN has learned prosecutors with the Justice Department have reached out to representatives for former Vice President Mike Pence, seeking his testimony in the criminal probe into efforts to impede the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election.

CNN's Paula Reid is live in Washington for us this morning. So they've reached out. They want the former Vice President to testify. Do we know if he is open to cooperating, Paula?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica. It appears that he is open to potentially talking to investigators, and it is notable that this request came before the newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to took over these investigations. But Pence could be such a key witness in their investigation of the former president's efforts to meddle in the 2020 election.

He was obviously the vice president. He was in and around the White House, during the election, after the election, all the way up to the insurrection, where he was, of course, famously on the Hill that day. And over the past few weeks, he's been talking a lot more publicly about what he experienced during that time and how he felt about it.

He's been very critical of the former president, and it was very much expected, Erica, the federal prosecutors were to reach out with some follow up questions about some of the things that he disclosed in his book. The Vice President -- former Vice President has previously rebuffed a request from the January 6 committee to sit for an interview, though some of his aides have cooperated with them and the Justice Department.

But a request from federal prosecutors is different than a request from lawmakers, and the former Vice President knows that. So it'll be interesting to see if he eventually ends up cooperating. But it seems like they're on a path.

HILL: All right, on a path. We'll go with that and see what happens. Paula, thank you.

It is an absolutely beautiful day here in New York. You really couldn't ask for better weather for the 96th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Santa, big birds, snoopy baby shark, it's going to be in your head all day. You're welcome. Flying high down the streets of the city.

CNN's Brynn Gingras scoring -- or should I say earning, Brynn, the best assignment of the day, covering the parade on a day when -- and I'm just checking the temperature here -- the real feel is 55. I mean, talk about scoring the assignment on the right year.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I know, I know, I haven't done this. I've worked in New York media, Erica, as you know for like 10 years, and I've never done the parade. And now I'm like totally spoiled. I mean, it was beautiful. The crowds were out. It was so exciting. It really was.

Just a short time ago, we watched Santa passes by here on the Upper West Side. They've now opened the streets, but everybody had so much excitement for this traditional event that just brings everybody out and just so happy, just screaming, Happy Thanksgiving.

And I did find a few stragglers, Erica, that I'm going to say hello to, and I want you to say hello too as well. This is Skyler. Skyler, what was your favorite part of the parade?


GINGRAS: Of course, it was Santa. Why was it Santa?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's almost Christmas.

GINGRAS: That means it's almost Christmas. So exciting. Erica, full disclosure, that is my niece. This is my family. They're hanging out with me --

HILL: Yehey!

GINGRAS: -- until this -- we're done here. But you know how much they love you, Erica, so I had to get them on to say hello. And this is my little guy Gavin. But, yes, it was such a family fun event, and we had a blast. And I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family too, Erica. HILL: Oh, I hope you do too, my friend. Send lots of love to your family from me. I love seeing them all there at the parade. And, you know, Brynn and I belong to the mutual admiration society. Just a couple of girls from Connecticut who love each other and their families.

Thank you, my friend. Have a great day.

GINGRAS: Absolutely.

HILL: All right. Well, if you were in the right place at the right time in New York City, boy, were you in for a treat. A little bit of a surprise here. There he is, Sir Elton himself performing last night. This was at the Unveiling of Saks Fifth Avenue's holiday windows on Fifth Avenue. So here's a taste of that surprise performance that shut down traffic. Take a look.