Around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, a television crew from Roanoka, Va., was filming a live shot at the Bridgewater Plaza shopping center. The WDBJ camera was rolling when a gunman — later identified by police as disgruntled former employee Vester Lee Flanagan II — approached and opened fire, killing reporter Alison Parker and camerman Adam Ward and injuring their interview subject.
Flanagan, a 41-year-old with ties to Georgia, later shot himself during a chase on I-66 with Virginia State Police. Around 2:20 p.m., officials said he died at a local hospital.
Who were the victims?
Alison Parker had just turned 24 years old. She was a Martinsville, Va., native and graduated from James Madison University in 2012. A former intern at the station, she was in a relationship with WDBJ news anchor Chris Hurst.
Adam Ward, 27, was a graduate of Virginia Tech. He had worked for the station since 2011 and was reportedly planning to follow his fiancée, WDBJ producer Melissa Ott, to North Carolina, where she was moving for a new job opportunity.
Vicki Gardner was being interviewed by Parker and Ward. She was the head of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. She was shot in the back and, as of Wednesday afternoon, believed to be in stable condition.
Who is the suspect?
Vester Lee Flanagan II, who was known professionally as Bryce Williams, worked at WDBJ from March 2012 to February 2013.
Cellphone footage of the shooting was posted on a Twitter account associated with Flanagan. The same account claimed Parker made racist comments toward him, and that Ward “went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!”
Flanagan also worked at Savannah station WTOC-TV from February 1997 to March 1999. While there, he worked as a general assignment reporter and fill-in anchor.
Flanagan also had stints at TV stations in San Francisco, Calif.; Greenville, N.C.; and Tallahassee, Fla. — the latter of which he sued in 2000, alleging racial discrimination.
According to Virginia State Police, Flanagan’s vehicle was spotted shortly before 11:30 a.m. Flanagan fled and, minutes later, “ran off the road and crashed.”
Flanagan was found in the vehicle with a gunshot wound and was taken to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries. He was initially described as being in “very critical” condition.
Authorities later confirmed that he had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, authorities said they “still have a lengthy investigation to conduct.”
Local media reactions
Throughout Wednesday, members of Atlanta’s TV news media took to social media to express their condolences for Parker and Ward. At a luncheon for the Atlanta Press Club, directors and general managers for the city’s four TV news stations shared their thoughts with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Rodney Ho.
“We are already conscious of security issues,” Channel 2 Action News news director Mike Dreaden said. “We are out here and visible and easy to identify. This reminds you how careful you have to be.”
Said Larry Perret, news director for CBS46: “We just want to emphasize to be on guard.”
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