27 Aug 2015

Our hearts are broken, say colleagues of shot journalists

8:59 am on 27 August 2015

A man who shot dead two American journalists during a live TV broadcast has died after apparently shooting himself.

Alison Parker (left) was interviewing chamber of commerce director Vicki Gardner.

Alison Parker (left) interviews chamber of commerce director Vicki Gardner, moments before they were shot. Photo: AFP / WDBJ7-TV

WDBJ7 TV reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were killed during an interview in the town of Moneta, Virginia.

The gunman later uploaded a video to the internet of himself opening fire at close range. The footage showed him raising a handgun, training it on the trio and opening fire, as the reporter and her interviewee start screaming. The reporter tries to run from the gunman before the camera appears to be dropped.

The video appeared on his Twitter and Facebook feeds. The accounts have since been suspended, but the harrowing video continues to be shared on the internet.

One frame of the video, showing the gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan, standing over the camera, was used in the police hunt for the man.

Virginia State Police said Flanagan's vehicle was spotted on the Interstate 66 highway following the shooting, and crashed off the road after being pursued by officers.

"Troopers approached the vehicle and found the male driver suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound," police said in a statement.

He later died in hospital, a police spokesman said.

Flanagan, known professionally as Bryce Williams, was a former WDBJ7 staff member. His Twitter account suggested he held a grudge against Mr Ward and Ms Parker. Police said his social media posts the previous evening suggested the attack was pre-planned.

Local media reported that he had filed a lawsuit against WDBJ7 alleging discrimination by the whole station and naming most of the staff of his complaint. The case is said to have been dismissed by a judge in July 2014.

ABC News has meanwhile revealed that it received a 23-page fax, apparently sent by Flanagan on Wednesday morning, in which he claimed his anger had been "building steadily".

The fax said the attack was intended to avenge the Charleston shootings earlier this year - a suspected hate crime in which a white gunman killed nine parishioners at an African-American church.

The rambling fax also complained of racial discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace, and professed admiration for the perpetrators of gun massacres at a US school and university.

WDBJ7 TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward.


Ms Parker was starting a breakfast TV interview about tourism at the shopping centre. The piece was being broadcast live when suddenly eight shots rang out, the camera spun and dropped to the ground, and her screams could be heard.

The footage then captures what appears to be a fleeting image of the gunman, wearing black trousers and a blue top - and holding a handgun.

The TV station said the woman who was being interviewed, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, had survived the attack but was in hospital and required surgery.

As shots rang out on the live broadcast, viewers were returned to the image of the station's anchor with her mouth wide open in shock.

Mr Ward's fiance, a producer at the TV station, was watching from a control room when he was killed.

Another staff member at the station, anchor Chris Hurst, revealed revealed that he and Ms Parker had been in a relationship and had planned to marry.

He wrote on Twitter "We didn't share this publicly, but @AParkerWDBJ7 and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb."

WDBJ7 TV reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27

WDBJ7 staff expressed their shock at the deaths of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Photo: AFP/WDBJ7-TV

Other staff at the TV station also expressed their shock and grief.

The station's president and general manager Jeffrey Marks said on air, "Alison and Adam died this morning at 06:45 shortly after the shots rang out."

"I cannot tell you how much they were loved by the WDBJ7 team... our hearts are broken."

He described the suspected killer as "an unhappy man" who was "difficult to work with" and had to be escorted from the TV station by police officers when he was finally dismissed.

- BBC / Reuters

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