Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Vester Flanagan (Bryce Williams) dies in hospital after Alison Parker and Adam Ward murdered during live television broadcast

  • Gunmen who killed news reporter and cameraman during live broadcast identified as 'disgruntled former employee'
  • Suspect Vester Lee Flanagan II shoots himself and later dies in hospital
  • Two killed earlier named as Alison Parker (24) and Adam Ward (27)
  • Suspect believed to have posted his own video of the shooting on social media
  • Vicki Gardner, the sole survivor of the shooting, is out of surgery and stable

Vester Flanagan, the suspect in the fatal shooting of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward during a live television broadcast, has died in hospital after shooting himself during a police pursuit.

Flanagan is believed to be a disgruntled employee of US TV channel WDBJ-TV whose real name is Vester Lee Flanagan II but appeared on air at the station as Bryce Williams.

Virginia State Police said the suspect had fled on Interstate 66 with police in pursuit. The suspect refused to stop, was ran off the road and crashed.

When police approached the vehicle, they found he had suffered a "gunshot wound." The man has been taken to a hospital with "life-threatening injuries" but later died.

Vicki Gardner, the sole survivor of the shooting, is out of surgery and stable.

Earlier, 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.

ABC News reported that someone using the name Bryce Williams faxed the organisation a lengthy 23-page document that it has turned over to authorities.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that video recorded by the station's camera shows the male suspect holding a weapon.

Video shows Ms Parker carrying out an interview 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.

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."

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.

The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the south-west and central part of the state.

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."

He continued: "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."

WDBJ's general manager, Jeffrey A 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."

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.

'Resume' of the suspect in the fatal shooting posted online in 2013

"We have members of the team holding back tears frankly."

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 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 in black trousers and a blue top who appears to be holding a handgun.

WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan said Mr Ward was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott.

He said: "Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked. He did live shots during our morning show for several years."

Profile: Vester Lee Flanagan has history of claiming racial allegations against co-workers

Vester Lee Flanagan, who shot himself after killing of two former colleagues live on air, appears to have a history of claiming racial discrimination from former co-workers.

The 41-year-old, who worked under the name Bryce Williams, is believed to have held grudges against both his victims - 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward (27).

Filming his fatal attack on his former WDBJ7 colleagues, the former presenter at the station posted the clip on Facebook and Twitter.

In a series of tweets afterwards, he wrote that "Alison made racist comments" and "Adam went to (human resources) on me after working with me one time!!!"

Mr Flanagan worked with the pair at WDBJ7 for more than a year before he was let go in February 2013.

The Roanoke Times reports he had a troubled time at the station, suing them for discrimination in May 2014 following claims that staff made “racial comments” to him.

The case was dismissed a short time later by a judge who found that there was no evidence to corroborate his claims.

The paper said he named "most of the WDBJ7 staff in his complaint".Based on his work history, Mr Flanagan appears to have been unemployed at the time of the shooting.

Questions have been raised over Williams's mental health, with Virginia's governor Terry McAuliffe saying "there are certain people who should not be entitled to a firearm."

Journalist Heather Myers, who works at the SD6 station in San Diego, wrote on Twitter that her news director had "hired and fired" Williams in 2000 in Florida for “bizarre behaviour and threatening employees”.

WDBJ7 station manager Jeff Marks said Mr Flanagan was “an unhappy man” who was difficult to work with and quick to take offence.

“Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. And he did not take that well, we had to call the police to escort him from the building," he told the Guardian.

Mr Flanagan’s LinkedIn account shows he had worked as an intern before moving on to news writing and reporting.

Shortly before working as an anchor and producer at WNCT-TV in North Carolina for two years, the 41-year-old took a job with WTWC-TV in Florida.

He reportedly filed a racial discrimination lawsuit after losing his job, claiming that a producer called him a "monkey” and that he, and other black employees, were told to "stop talking ebonics".

WTWC denied the claims, and said his termination was due to ongoing issues with “profanity in the workplace”.

The case was settled out of court in 2001.

In the lawsuit, filed in 2000, he also alleged that a supervisor said that “blacks were lazy”.

Independent News Service


From Belfast Telegraph