Reporter, Cameraman Killed In Shooting During Live News Broadcast

08/26/2015 09:07 am ET | Updated Aug 27, 2015

Two beloved Virginia journalists were shot and killed Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire in a shocking moment caught on live television.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, worked for Roanoke-based news station WDBJ and were broadcasting from Smith Mountain Lake in the community of Moneta when multiple gunshots rang out around 6:45 a.m. Parker screamed and ducked before the camera turned off. Parker and Ward both died at the scene. Vicki Gardner, the executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce who Parker was interviewing at the time, was struck in the back and is in stable condition after undergoing surgery at a local hospital. 

Police say the gunman was 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan, a former WDBJ reporter who went by “Bryce Williams” on air. Flanagan fled the scene, and law enforcement ultimately caught up to him at around 11:30 a.m., when his vehicle went off the highway and crashed. Officials found Flanagan suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to a hospital, but died of his injuries at around 1:30 p.m.

While Flanagan was running from the police, video footage of the attacks from the point of view of the shooter were posted to social media accounts bearing the name Bryce Williams. Tweets sent from the Williams account accused Parker of being “racist” and complained that Ward had once “sent [him] to HR.” Twitter and Facebook suspended the accounts involved. 

Parker and Ward, both Virginia natives, were loved and respect by their colleagues and often worked together as a team on assignments. 
“They were special people. They’d brighten up a room every morning,” anchor Kim McBroom said in a broadcast following the attack. 
Parker "took on the morning live reporting job with great excitement and vigor" and Ward "was universally loved," WDBJ general manager Jeff Marks told The Associated Press.
"Barbara, Drew, and I are numb, devastated and I find my grief unbearable," Parker's father Andy said in a statement. 
"Alison was our bright, shining light and it was cruelly extinguished by yet another crazy person with a gun. She excelled at everything she did and was loved by everyone she touched," he wrote. She loved us dearly, and we talked to her every single day. Not hearing her voice again crushes my soul. Our family can only take solace in the fact that although her life was brief, she was so happy with it. She lived it to the fullest and her spirit will always be with us."

Calling it his "mission in life," Parker's father told Fox News' Megyn Kelly that he would fight for gun legislation that closes loopholes and ensures background checks.

Shortly after the shooting, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst revealed on social media that he and Parker had been in a relationship for months and were “very much in love.” He described her as “the most radiant woman I had ever met” and that they had talked about getting married.
Ward had announced his own engagement to WDBJ morning producer Melissa Ott months ago. Ott was in the station’s control room during the shooting and saw it happen live. Her wedding dress arrived the same day her beloved was murdered.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) called for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting, restating his support for background checks. He made the statement when asked during an online Q&A session whether he would call for tougher gun control as a result of the incident.

In a statement released Wednesday night, the family of the suspected gunman expressed their sorrow over the killings. "Words cannot express the hurt we feel for the victims," the family said, requesting privacy from the media.


At 6:45 a.m. on Thursday, WDBJ staffers observed an on-air moment of silence to honor Parker and Ward, The AP reported. During the moment of remembrance, which marked the same moment the journalists were killed, the station broadcast photos of the victims. 


Sebastian Murdock contributed reporting

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