A television reporter and cameraman were shot to death and another woman seriously wounded during a live, on-air broadcast Wednesday morning in Virginia. The suspected shooter is 41-year-old Vester L. Flanagan, a former reporter also known as Bryce Williams. The state’s governor described him as a disgruntled station employee.
24-year-old WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old photographer Adam Ward were on location at a shopping center in Virginia’s Franklin County around 6:45 AM with Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, when their interview with was suddenly cut short by gunshots.
Parker and Ward were killed. Gardner was treated at a local hospital and was in stable condition.
CCTV America’s Jim Spellman filed this report.
Shots rang out during live news report on tourismSix forty-three in the morning, the sun barely up on a local lake, as reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward on live television interviewed a local official about tourism. Then shots rang out. When the shooting was done Parker and Ward were dead. The woman they were interviewing was wounded but is expected to survive.
Update 2:38 p.m.
In the 23-page manifesto Flanagan faxed to ABC News, he writes that his motivation was the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
ABC News summarized parts of the letter:
“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”
“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.
Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.'”
In an often rambling letter to the authorities, and family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Williams calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family.”
–He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work –He says he has been attacked by black men and white females –He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man
“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”
“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
Update 2:24 p.m.
Former WDBJ reporter Orlando Salinas told TVSpy that Williams often complained about racial discrimination at the station:
Salinas said that on Williams’ last day—in February of 2013—he created a “ruckus” by berating people in the newsroom. Salinas said employees were put in a room for their protection and police were called. Police then escorted Williams from the station. Salinas said the station provided security for station employees for an unknown time after the incident.
Update 2:13 p.m.
Brian Moran, Virginia secretary of public safety, said the shooter was pronounced dead at the hospital at 1:26 pm, according to state police and reported by the Washington Post.
Update 1:49 p.m.
Flanagan was dismissed in 2013 from WDBJ 7 News in Roanoke, Virginia after gaining a reputation for being “difficult to work with.”
“He did not take that well,” WDBJ general manager Jeff Marks said in a live broadcast on Wednesday. “We had to call the police to escort him from the building.”
Flanagan filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after being dismissed from WDBJ. But as had happened with his complaint after being fired from a Talahassee, Florida NBC affiliate, the EEOC found no evidence of wrongdoing and dismissed the complaints.
VIDEO OF WDBJ GM JEFF MARKS
Update 1:26 p.m. A twitter account under Flanagan’s name accused Ward of filing an HR complaint against him, and Parker of making racist comments.
Flanigan worked for a year as a reporter at WTWC 40 in Tallahassee, which he sued in 2000 for racial discrimination. Court records have been purged.
The Roanoke Times reports that Vicki Gardner, the third victim in the shooting, is out of the emergency room and in stable condition, according to a hospital spokesperson. The suspect has been taken into custody in Fauquier County, according to police spokesperson Corrine Geller.
Police confirm the suspect ran off the road, crashed, and was found to be suffering from a gunshot wound. The police chase ended when he crashed off of I-66 near mile marker 17, roughly 189 miles from and five hours after the scene of the shooting, which happened around 6:45 Wednesday morning.
Law enforcement tells CNN that Flanigan is not dead, but in “very critical condition” after shooting himself during a car chase with police. Screenshot from WDBJ livecast.
A law enforcement source tells CNN that Flanagan has apparently committed suicide. ABC News received a 23-page fax from someone who says he is Flanagan. It has been turned over to the police.
— ABC News (@ABC) August 26, 2015
The suspect allegedly filmed the shootings, and posted the video on his Facebook and Twitter. His accounts have since been shut down.
A screenshot of a Facebook page using the suspect’s name:
WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan said Ward was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, and had been with the station for four years.
“Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked. He did live shots during our morning show for several years.”
Anchor Chris Hurst said in tweets that although he and Parker two didn’t share their relationship publicly, they were in love and had just moved in together.
“We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday,” Hurst tweeted. He also tweeted about the second victim, Ward, saying that Parker “worked with Adam every day. They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during an appearance on WTOP-FM’s “Ask the Governor” on Wednesday morning said, “It’s just a tragedy,” McAuliffe said.
Jeffrey A. Marks, general manager of WDBJ-TV, identified the two killed as Alison Parker and Adam Ward and called the shooting “a terrible crime against two fine journalists.”
“This is our community, we want to come together,” Gardner said to Parker as Ward rolled on camera, moments before being shot.
Video shows Parker interviewing someone about tourism on Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County. She was smiling when suddenly at least eight shots were heard. The camera drops to the ground and captures what appears to be a fleeting image of the shooter. The person is wearing black pants and a blue top and appears to be holding a handgun. Parker can be heard screaming. The station then switches back to a shot of an anchor back at the station, who has a shocked expression on her face.
In a tweet, the station said “We love you, Alison and Adam.” The station’s website says Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech. Parker just turned 24 and attended James Madison University, where she was the editor of the school’s newspaper, The Breeze. She also had been an intern at WDBJ-TV.
According to her Facebook page, Parker was an avid kayaker and theatergoer.
The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the southwest and central part of the state. The shopping mall where the shooting happened is just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, southeast of Roanoke.
Article includes reporting by The Associated Press.