Warning: This video contains graphic video showing the moment the assailant shot both people
WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot during a live broadcast on Wednesday morning. When Ward was shot, he fell to the floor and captured a blurry image of the shooter that was widely distributed.
August County Sheriff’s Department identified the shooting suspect as Vester Lee Flanagan, who went by Bryce Williams on television. Flanagan was a former colleague.
Social media accounts belonging to the shooter had video filmed from his perspective. He committed suicide after posting them.
The videos of the incident that were posted – and later removed – on Twitter and Facebook showed the gunman walking up to the 3 people and holding the gun at them for several seconds before opening fire on the cameraman. These were far too graphic to show.
Parker and Ward were interviewing Vicki Gardner, the head of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, for a feature story at the Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta. Gardner was shot and injured and is now undergoing surgery.
After the shooting, Flanagan fled in a rental car. Authorities chased him down but the car ran off the road into a median. When troopers approached they saw Flanagan had a gunshot wound. He died at about 1:30pm.
Flanagan, 41, was at WDBJ between 2012 and 2013 as a multimedia journalist. General Manager Jeff Marks explains him as an “unhappy man” who “quickly gathered a reputation of someone who was difficult to work with. …After many incidents of his anger, we dismissed him. He did not take that well. We had to call police to escort him from the building.”
Flanagan filed a lawsuit and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the station. The suit was settled.
ABC News reported that between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning it had received 23 pages via fax from a man claiming to be Bryce Williams. ABC said it had turned the document over to authorities.
The network later reported the faxes contained references to a number of infamous mass shootings, including the murders of nine black parishioners in Charleston in June.
“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15,” he wrote in the faxes, according to ABC. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
ABC reported he complained of being attacked for being a gay black man. He also reportedly telephoned the ABC newsroom after the shooting to claim he was responsible.
In a statement, Parker’s father described his grief as “unbearable.” He writes, “”Not hearing her voice again crushes my soul””
Parker’s boyfriend and fellow news anchor Chris Hurst took to Twitter to say he and Parker were “very much in love.” He writes, “We just moved in together. I am numb.”
My heart goes out to the reporter and photographer shot on live television. There were two videos of the incident, one from Adam Ward’s camera and one from the POV of Bryce Williams, I did not include the latter out of respect for the family members.