Gunman dead after killing Virginia journalists

MONETA, Va. (KXAN/AP) — Vester Flanagan, the man suspected of killing Virginia television reporter and photographer on live television this morning is dead.

Police found Flanagan’s car along Interstate 66 and tried to pull him over. He refused to stop and crashed his vehicle off the road. As they approached the car, officers found Flanagan with a gunshot wound. He was rushed to an area hospital where he later died.

Shots rang out as Alison Parker, 24, and photographer Adam Ward, 27, were interviewing a local official at an outdoor shopping mall as part of the morning show at WDBJ-TV. The attack was broadcast live; Parker and Ward fell to the ground. Ward’s camera captured the suspect’s image as it tumbled to the ground.

Flanagan, a former reporter at WDBJ-TV, was identified as the primary suspect in the shooting. He went by the name Bryce Williams on air.

Police stop Flanagan along I-66 where he shot himself (NBC)
Police stop Flanagan along I-66 where he shot himself (NBC)

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 offense to.”

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

Video posted hours after the shooting on Bryce Williams’ Twitter account and Facebook page 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 a few feet away from them while holding the weapon. The three, in the midst of a live TV interview, do not seem to notice the gunman, who doesn’t start shooting until Ward points the camera at Parker.

Read More: Who is Vester “Bryce Williams” Flanagan?

Ward was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, who was celebrating her last day on the job and was in the control room, watching it live, as the shooting unfolded, Marks said.

Tweets posted on Williams’ Twitter account Wednesday described workplace conflicts with both victims. They say Williams filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Parker, and that Ward had reported Williams to human resources.

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.

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

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

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

Ward, 27, graduated from Virginia Tech 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.”

Parker had just turned 24 and had joined the station as an intern after attending 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, Virginia. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theater events in her spare time.

The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the southwest and central part of the state. The shootings happened at a mall just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, about 25 miles southeast of Roanoke.

 

122 by Bridgewater Plaza is blocked off following shooting incident (WSLS)
122 by Bridgewater Plaza is blocked off following shooting incident (WSLS)

The Associated Press contributed to this article

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