TV crew shot, killed during live broadcast
A reporter and cameraman doing a live interview in Virginia were shot and killed Wednesday morning live on television. Officials say the gunman died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were at Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County for WDBJ television when a gunman appears to approach from behind the camera and start firing. Parker was seen smiling when suddenly at least eight shots were heard.
As the the camera falls to the ground, a few seconds of what appears to be the gunman appears briefly on screen. The reporter 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.
Vicki Gardner, a local Chamber of Commerce representative being interviewed by Parker, was also shot. WDBJ reports Gardner is now out of surgery and is in stable condition.
Police say that shortly before 11:30 a.m., they initiated a traffic stop on the suspect vehicle on Interstate 66. Authorities say the suspect was found by Virginia state troopers after he switched from his vehicle to a rental car he'd gotten earlier this month. Police say the driver refused to stop and sped away from the trooper, but ran off the road and crashed. Police say the troopers approached and found the driver suffering from a gunshot wound, he was taken to a hospital where he later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The suspect has been identified as 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II of Roanoke, who appeared on air at the TV station WDBJ in Virginia as Bryce Williams. Officials say suspect Vester Flanagan died at 1:26 Thursday at a hospital in Northern Virginia.
The station's General Manager said Adam Ward was engaged to morning show producer Melissa Ott, who was in the control room when the shooting happened. She had accepted a job at a TV station in Charlotte, and Ward was planning on moving with her.
The station says Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech.
A spokesman for the Virginia TV station describes the slain cameraman as WDBJ-TV's "go-to guy." Morgan says Adam had been with the station for four years.
WDBJ confirmed its employees were victims in the deadly attack online.
Video posted to Twitter shows a portion of the Wednesday morning television broadcast. At this time, we have decided not to post the video.
Parker had been dating Chris Hurst, WDBJ's 6 p.m. anchor. Hurst made their relationship known on twitter after the shooting, and shared his grief.
The father of Parker says the family is "numb." He says he goes from shock to not believing to realizing that it happened and just crying his eyes out.
He says he was proud of her ethics as a journalist. He said that police in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she had her first full-time job would give her scoops because she showed herself to be trustworthy.
He said he watched all of her pieces online.
He said his ambitious daughter graduated from James Madison University in 3½ years. Her interests ranged from white-water kayaking to ballet.
"She excelled at everything she did," he said.
The TV station also linked to her Facebook page, which says Parker spent most of her life outside Martinsville, Virginia.
Parker previously worked at WCTI NewsChannel 12 in Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theater events in her spare time.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on the attack:
“There are no words to express how heartbroken I am by the senseless tragedy in Moneta this morning. My deepest sympathies go out to the loved ones of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, as well as the entire WDBJ family. I ask everyone to join me in praying for Vicki Gardner who was seriously injured in this attack and all of the local authorities and first responders who are working to find the perpetrator of this horrific crime.”
The property outside the studios of WDBJ-TV in Roanoke has turned into a tribute to slain reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward.
Dozens of balloons and flower arrangements dotted the property leading to the front door.
Reporters from multiple media outlets gathered for a late afternoon news conference at the station with WDBJ president and general manager Jeffrey Marks and news director Kelly Zuber.
Zuber says the station is setting up scholarships at the alma maters of Parker and Ward. Parker graduated from James Madison University and Ward went to Virginia Tech.
Marcia Burdick, senior vice president of broadcasting at WDBJ parent company Schurz Communications of South Bend, Indiana, says the National Association of Broadcasters has taken the lead in setting up a fund for the families of Parker and Ward.
About 50 people were gathered at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta for Vicki Gardner, who survived the shooting. They sang hymns, read Bible verses and lit candles.
Several people said that Smith Mountain Lake is a tranquil community, and noted that Gardner has been one of the area's most tireless supporters. She is the executive director for the local chamber of commerce and was being interviewed at the time of the shooting.
Many people spoke of Gardner's cheerful personality, and how her position was the perfect fit for her.
Former neighbor Tandy Amburgey said Gardner always greeting people with a hug and would not want Smith Mountain Lake's reputation to be tarnished by the shooting.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.