Fatal on-air shooting of reporter and cameraman may have been racially motivated
Two members of a Virginia news team were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday morning, in what may have been a racially motivated attack by a disgruntle former employee.
General manager of WDBJ-TV Jeffrey A. Marks confirmed 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward were killed shortly after 6:45 a.m.
The woman Parker was interviewing on-air at the time of the shooting has been identified by the Roanoke Times as Vicki Gardner, head of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Gardner reportedly suffered a gunshot wound to the back and is in surgery.
According to Franklin County Sheriff Department spokesperson Phillip Young, the shooting occurred at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Va. The suspected shooter has been identified as Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, of Roanoke. Flanagan worked for WDBJ as Bryce Williams, his on-air name.
Williams claims in a series of tweets posted after the shooting that the cameraman got him fired after reporting him to HR. He also accuses Parker of making racist comments. The gunman posted an eerie video on his Facebook page showing him stalking the victims up to the moment when he pulls the trigger.
In one tweet, Flanagan says, “I filmed the shooting see Facebook.” That Facebook account as well as his Twitter have been taken down.
Flanagan spent several years in news, hopping from station to station. According to his Linkedin profile, the San Francisco State University graduate began his career as a weekend news writer at KPIX in 1993. Throughout the years, he worked as a reporter in Texas, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina before ending up in Virginia.
Vester, who was recently fired from WDBJ, also sued his former employer, WTWC NBC 40 in Tallahassee, Florida, after a less than peaceful parting. Falnangan, siting racial discrimination, claimed his supervisor referred to him as a monkey and said “blacks were lazy.”
In addition to the social media posts, the shooter reportedly sent a 23-page manifesto to ABC News.
— ABC News (@ABC) August 26, 2015
According to CNN, law enforcement confronted Vester Flanagan on Interstate 66, and Flanagan shot himself and is said to be in critical condition.
Shortly after news broke of the shooting, WDBJ co-workers and loved ones shared their shock.
How Alison Parker & Adam Ward should be remembered instead of the horrific video [via New York Daily News] pic.twitter.com/KoNjJOqr7k
— Shawn Reynolds (@ShawnReynolds_) August 26, 2015
— Delegate Chris Hurst (@ChrisHurstVA) August 26, 2015