Man Suspected Of Murdering Virginia TV Crew On-Air Shoots Self

Wednesday, August 26th 2015, 9:21 am
By: News On 6

A former co-worker shot and killed a television reporter and cameraman on the air during a live broadcast Wednesday morning, police say. The man later shot himself.

The suspect is Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, of Roanoke, said Becky Coyner with dispatch and records at the Augusta County Sheriff's Office. Police initially said he had died but later said he was still alive at a hospital. About an hour later, they confirmed he died there.

Virginia State Police said Flanagan killed himself on Interstate 66.

The suspect used the name Bryce Williams on television. WDBJ said he had left the station two years ago. WDBJ's General Manager Jeff Marks said Flanagan was an unhappy man who was always looking for a reason to be offended. Marks said he had been fired. Marks said the station called police to escort Flanagan out of the building that day. 

Marks said Williams alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but said his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated.

"We think they were fabricated," Marks said.

A Twitter account belonging to a person using that name posted two videos of the shooting from the gunman's perspective. The account has since been suspended.

The two victims were Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

Video shows Parker interviewing an economic development official around 6:45 a.m. about tourism on Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County, looking at the upcoming 50th anniversary festivities for Smith Mountain Lake. The station said in a tweet shortly before the shooting that Parker was looking into the planning process for a celebration.

Parker was smiling when suddenly at least eight shots were heard. Parker screams, runs and can be heard saying, "Oh my God."

As the camera drops to the ground, it 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.

A still image from the camera of videographer Adam Ward of WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, of the suspected gunman who shot and killed Ward, 27, and reporter Alison Parker, 24, during a live broadcast.

The station then switches back to a shot of an anchor back at the station, who appears shocked and says, "OK, not sure what happened there. We will of course let you know as soon as we find out what those sounds were from."

Parker was interviewing Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Roanoke Times newspaper reports.

Barb Nocera, an official with the chamber, told the newspaper that Gardner was shot in the back and was in surgery.

Schools in Franklin County and neighboring Bedford County were placed on lockdown following the shooting, according to messages posted to the school districts' Facebook pages.

In a tweet, the station said: "We love you, Alison and Adam."

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 spent most of her life outside Martinsville, Virginia. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theater events in her spare time.

Her boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris 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. She had just finished a special package on child abuse for the station, he said.

"I am numb," he said.

The station's website says Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech. He 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."

The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, 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 25 miles southeast of Roanoke.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.