Brian Pendleton, one of the six people killed in the shooting, would have turned 39 next week, his mother said in an emotional phone interview Wednesday.
“He had a real big heart,” his mother, Michelle Johnson, said. “Anybody that wanted to laugh, or just want company, he’d buy you lunch. He’d buy you anything in a minute.”
Pendleton worked at the Walmart for nearly 11 years as a custodian and “loved his job,” she said.
“He was just a hard worker and a good kid,” she said.
When a family friend called and told her there had been a shooting at his Walmart, Johnson’s husband went to where families had been told to convene for reunification. He was told Brian had been transferred to Norfolk General Hospital, so Johnson and her husband drove there, she said.
“We waited, and then the police came out with a nurse and they took us to a side room and that’s when they told us that he didn’t make it,” Johnson said, choking up.
“That’s when they said that he didn’t make it,” Johnson said, sobbing. “I just wondered, was he afraid at that time? I know my son. I didn’t want him to be afraid, and I didn’t want him to hurt.”
Pendleton had a condition called congenital hydrocephalus. Johnson has it too, she said, but they had both been “blessed” not to have a severe case.
“We’re fighters, and we trust the Lord,” she said.
This was Pendleton’s favorite time of year, with Thanksgiving and his birthday on Dec. 2, said Johnson.
“I don’t understand why, what happened, happened,” she said.
“I will never go near that Walmart again,” she added.
-ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik