Suspect in TV News Crew Shooting Dies; More Details Emerge

Photo Courtesy: UPI


MONETA, Va., Aug. 26 (UPI) — A man suspected of shooting to death a news reporter and videographer on live television died Wednesday after he shot himself in a confrontation with police.

The gunman was identified as Vester L. Flanagan, a former employee of WDBJ in Virginia, where the victims worked.

Flanagan, 41, also known as Bryce Williams, was confronted by law enforcement officers on Interstate 66.

“The suspect vehicle refused to stop and sped away from the trooper,” Virginia State Police said in a statement. “Minutes later, the suspect vehicle ran off the road and crashed. The troopers approached the vehicle and found the male driver suffering from a gunshot wound.”

“The male driver is believed to be the same male subject who shot three people this morning in Franklin County during a television news interview,” Virginia State Police added.

Flanagan later died at a Fairfax, Va., hospital, CNN reported.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and videographer Adam Ward, 27, were shot dead during a live broadcast about 6:45 a.m. at the Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Va., near Roanoke.

Flanagan apparently posted a video on social media showing the moment before the shooting, when the gun is raised at Parker.

“I filmed the shooting see Facebook,” said a post to a Twitter account under the name of Bryce Williams.

ABC News said it received a 23-page fax purporting to be from Flanagan before the shooting. It was turned over to police.

In the letter, Flanagan said the fatal shooting if nine people at a church in Charleston, S.C., triggered Wednesday’s shootings.

“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.

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

He expressed anger at Dylann Roof, the alleged shooter in the Charleston attack.

“You want a race war [expletive]? Bring it on then,” the letter said.

Flanagan complained of racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. He called Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui Cho, his “boy.”

“Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin,'” the letter said, referring to the shooters at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

Parker and Ward were reporting on a feature story about the 50th anniversary of the Smith Mountain Lake. Vicki Gardner, head of the SML Chamber of Commerce, was being interviewed when she was also shot in the back. She was rushed to a hospital and was in stable condition after undergoing surgery.

Video of the live broadcast shows Parker interviewing Gardner before shots rang out. Parker began to flee, and the camera fell to the floor. A person, believed to be the gunman, is seen walking across the camera, as he points a gun at Ward.

About six or seven shots were fired, according to WDBJ7 General Manager Jeff Marks.

“We do not know the motive,” Marks said.

The news station thanked people who sent condolences during a live studio broadcast.

“I want to say that WDBJ7 is the best news team I’ve ever worked with,” Marks said. “This kind of loss will resonate for these halls for a long, long time as we remember in their short lives what dedicated journalism … and outstanding people they were.”

“Heartbroken over the loss of two members of our WDBJ7 morning family,” WDBJ anchor Kimberly McBroom said in a statement. “There are simply no words.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe sent his condolences.

“Heartbroken over senseless murders today in Smith Mountain Lake. State Police on scene working with local law agencies to capture suspect,” McAuliffe said in a tweet.

Chris Hurst, Parker’s boyfriend and fellow WDBJ employee, expressed his grief.

“We didn’t share this publicly, but Alison Parker and I were very much in love,” Hurst said in a statement. “We just moved in together. I am numb. We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married.”

“She worked with Adam every day. They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee. She is our morning show producer. This is unconscionable,” Hurst added.


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