1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

Reporter, cameraman shot to death on live television in Virginia; gunman dies at hospital

The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2015

alisonparkeradamward-featured

A TV reporter and cameraman were shot to death during a live television interview Wednesday by a gunman who recorded himself carrying out the killings and posted the video on social media after fleeing the scene.

Authorities identified the suspect as a journalist who had been fired from the station earlier this year. Hours later and hundreds of miles away, he crashed a vehicle and troopers found him suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died at a hospital later Wednesday, authorities said.

The shots rang out on-air as reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were presenting a local tourism story at an outdoor shopping mall. Viewers saw her scream and run, and she could be heard saying “Oh my God,” as she fell. Ward fell, too, and the camera he had been holding on his shoulder captured a fleeting image of the suspect holding a handgun.

Warning: The video below depicts the shooting that happened live on air.

WDBJ quickly switched back to the anchor at the station, her eyes large and jaw dropping as she said, “OK, not sure what happened there.” The station later went live again, reporting on their own station and staff as the story developed.

Parker and Ward were killed as the gunman fired about 15 shots. Their interview subject, Vicki Gardner, was in stable condition later Wednesday after surgery for her wounds.

The suspect is Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, of Roanoke, the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. The station said Flanagan appeared on air as Bryce Williams.

Jeffrey Marks, WDBJ’s president and general manager, said Flanagan had to be escorted by police out of the station when he was fired. Marks described him as “an unhappy man” and “difficult to work with,” always “looking out for people to say things he could take offence to.”

“Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. He did not take that well,” Marks explained.

virginiashooting-brycewilliams02

Video of the shooting was later posted on the suspect’s Twitter account and Facebook page. It showed an outstretched arm holding the handgun and firing repeatedly at Parker as she tried to run away.

The shooter appeared to walk up to the victims and stand nearby from them while holding the weapon. They were in the midst of a live TV interview, and didn’t seem to notice the gunman, who didn’t start shooting until Ward points the camera at Parker and the interviewee.

Posts on Flanagan’s Twitter account indicated that he filmed the shooting and posted it on Facebook. The tweets were also about both Parker and Ward. See the tweets below.

virginiashooting-tweets virginiashooting-video-screengrab

Parker is heard screaming and is seen running away as shots are fired. Roughly 15 shots can be heard, including several that were fired after the video goes dark.

ABC News reported on its website that the network received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be Flanagan. The network says the fax was turned over to authorities and did not elaborate on its contents.

Federal law enforcement was assisting, and federal officials said there was no indication of a connection to terrorism.

The shooting happened around 6:45 a.m. at Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County, as Parker interviewed Vicki Gardner about the upcoming 50th anniversary festivities for Smith Mountain Lake, a local tourism destination. Gardner also was shot and hospitalized.

Loved ones and station in shock

Both the victims were romantically involved with other employees at the station, according to Parker’s boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst.

Parker had just turned 24. She had just completed a special report on child abuse for the station, where she had worked as an intern. She attended James Madison University, where she was the editor of the school’s newspaper, The Breeze. According to her Facebook page, Parker spent most of her life outside Martinsville, Va. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theatre events in her spare time.

Hurst said they hadn’t shared their relationship publicly but “were very much in love.” He said they had just moved in together and wanted to get married. “I am numb,” he said.

https://twitter.com/chrishurstwdbj/status/636531364356063232

Ward, 27, graduated from Virginia Tech University and was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, said WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan.

“Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked,” Morgan said. “He did live shots during our morning show for several years.”

“I cannot tell you how much they were loved. Alison and Adam,” Marks said on-air. “Our hearts are broken.”

The station is based in Roanoke and serves the southwest and central part of the state. The shopping mall where the incident happened is just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, about 40 kilometres southeast of Roanoke.

Police have told employees of the station to stay inside the building as long as the suspect is on the loose. About 50 people work there, Marks said.

“We have police protection,” Marks said.

With files from News Staff

Comments

  • No comments have been left yet, get the conversation started!

Leave a Comment Below

Sign in to comment.

All fields are required.

Want to embed media into your comment? Just paste in a URL in a separate paragraph to the page where you would normally view the media (like on YouTube) and it will automatically be embedded into your comment.