Virginia reporter shooting: Suspect Flanagan dies

WDBJ7 Reporter Alison Parker was conducting a live interview when she was shot. Picture: Contributed
WDBJ7 Reporter Alison Parker was conducting a live interview when she was shot. Picture: Contributed
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A MAN suspected of shooting two US TV news journalists dead during a live broadcast has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

Vester Lee Flanagan died following a lengthy police pursuit after reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed on air as they worked on a live broadcast at a shopping centre in Moneta, central Virginia.

Flanagan, who went by the name Bryce Williams on the air, was found with a gunshot wound after his car crashed. It is thought he had tried to commit suicide.

He was a former employee at TV channel WDBJ-TV. According to officials, he was known for being unhappy, angry and hard to work with, and had been sacked.

A Twitter account belonging to the suspected gunman posted a first-person video of the shooting. The account has since been removed.

Another video shows a female reporter interviewing someone about tourism on Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County. She was smiling when at least eight shots were heard. The camera appeared to drop to the ground and the reporter can be heard screaming.

Two broadcast journalists in Virginia were killed while filming a live segment. Picture: WDBJ

Two broadcast journalists in Virginia were killed while filming a live segment. Picture: WDBJ

The station then switches back to a shot of a presenter back at the station, who has a shocked expression on her face.

In a tweet, the station said: “We love you, Alison and Adam.”

Vicky Gardner, of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, was injured in the shooting. She is being treated in hospital.

The station’s website says Mr Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech and Ms Parker had just turned 24 and attended James Madison University.

A Roanoke police officer near WDBJ7's Digital Broadcast Centre. Picture: AP

A Roanoke police officer near WDBJ7's Digital Broadcast Centre. Picture: AP

The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the south-west and central part of the state. The shopping centre where the incident happened is just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, southeast of Roanoke.

Mr Marks said on Wednesday: “It is my very, very sad duty to report that we have determined through the help of the police and our own employees that Alison and Adam died this morning shortly after 6.45 after the shots rang out.”

“We do not know the motive, we do not know who the killer is.

“I just got off the phone with the state police they are working very diligently to track down both the motive and the person responsible for this crimes against two very fine journalists.”

He added: “I cannot tell you how much they were loved, Alison and Adam, by the WDBJ7 team.

“Our hearts are broken and our sympathy goes to our entire team but also their parents and families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were just out doing their job today covering a story near Smith Mountain Lake.

“We have members of the team holding back tears frankly.”

One of the station’s presenters, Chris Hurst, said he was in love with Ms Parker and that they wanted to get married.

Hurst said on Twitter that although the two didn’t share their relationship publicly, they were in love and had just moved in together.

He tweeted: “We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday.”

He also tweeted about the second victim, Mr Ward, saying that Ms Parker “worked with Adam every day. They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee”.

Mr Hurst described the TV station as a family, tweeting: “I am comforted by everyone at @WDBJ7.”

According to the station’s website, Ms Parker was a morning reporter. She graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and was news editor of its recognised newspaper, The Breeze. She had also been an intern at WDBJ-TV.

The TV station also linked to her Facebook page, which says she spent most of her live outside Martinsville, Virginia.

Ms Parker previously worked at WCTI NewsChannel 12 in Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theatre events in her spare time.

Mr Hurst paid tribute to his girlfriend as the “most radiant woman”.

“She was the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back. She loved her family, her parents and her brother.”

Mr Marks said Adam was a “fine photo journalist”.

He added: “He was the kind of guy, if he was on his way home from work and heard about something breaking, he would turn around and go do it.”

Speaking on behalf of Mr Hurst, Mr Marks said: “Alison was everything. She brightened up every room and no matter what was going on she was a positive person.”

In the video of the incident, as the camera falls to the ground, it captures a fleeting image of a man, likely to be Flanagan, in black trousers and a blue top who appears to be holding a handgun.