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.
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.
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