TV Reporter, Cameraman Shot Dead in On-Air Attack

Police are looking for a suspect who apparently opened fire on WDBJ7's Alison Parker and Adam Ward

By Zach Johnson Aug 26, 2015 6:08 PMTags
Alison Parker, Adam Ward, WDBJ7, TwitterTwitter

UPDATE: The suspect was identified as Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, of Roanoke, said Becky Coyner with dispatch and records at the Augusta County Sheriff's Office. At 11:37 a.m. local time, police said over the radio to disregard the search for Flanagan, who remained alive following a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Flanagan went by Bryce Williams at WBDJ-TV in Roanoke, where Alison Parker and Adam Ward worked. Ward captured Flanagan on video before being killed. In a series of tweets, Flanagan hinted at possible motives for the shooting. He wrote about filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint and alleged that Parker had made racist comments. "They hired her after that???" he tweeted. Parker, he claimed, had also complained to HR about him after working together one time. His final text tweet bragged about filming that morning's attack.

The Twitter account has since been suspended.

Sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, ABC News received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be Williams. It was turned over to police.

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

The shooter was pronounced dead at the hospital at 1:26 pm, per state police.


WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker, 24, and WDBJ7 cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were killed in the midst of an interview around 6:45 a.m. local time in Moneta, Va., the TV station announced Wednesday. During the live broadcast, eight shots could be heard, sending Parker and her interviewee running for safety. The attack took place at a large shopping center, Bridgewater Plaza, near Smith Mountain Lake.

The station quickly switched back to a shot of the anchor back at the station, whose jaw dropped as she said, "OK, not sure what happened there. We will of course let you know as soon as we find out what those sounds were from."

WDBJ7 said the person being interviewed, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, survived the attack. She was taken into surgery.

"Alison and Adam died this morning shortly after 6:45 shortly when the shots rang out. We do not know the motive. We do not know who the suspect or who the killer is," Jeffrey Marks, the station's general manager and vice president, said on-air Wednesday. Police are "working very diligently to track down both the motive and the person responsible for this terrible crime against two fine journalists. I cannot tell you how much they were loved, Alison and Adam, by the WDBJ7 team."

Marks added, "They both were in love...our hearts are broken."

Parker had been dating WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst. "We didn't share this publicly, but @AParkerWDBJ7 and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb," Hurst informed his Twitter followers Wednesday. "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. 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. I am comforted by everyone at @WDBJ7. We are a family. She worked with Adam every day. They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancée."

Ward was engaged to producer WDBJ7 Melissa Ott.

"This was actually Melissa's last morning producing our show," anchor Kimberly McBroom said. "We were celebrating that with her earlier today. Alison had brought in balloons; I brought in the cake. It was a day of celebration. It was just an ordinary day. We were so happy for them. She had gotten another job and Adam was going to follow her soon after and they were going to get married. There were a lot of good things happening for Adam and Alison. Oh, wow! She was a rock star here at WDBJ. She really has done a wonderful job reporting, filling in anchoring. You throw in anything at that girl, she can do it."

Anchor Jean Jadhon said Ward had just told her, "'I'm going to get out of news. I think I'm going to do something else.'" She, too, said he had planned to "follow his fiancée down to Charlotte" in the future.

Parker attended Patrick Henry Community College and James Madison University.

Ward, meanwhile, graduated from Salem High School and Virginia Tech.

"We get here really early in the morning, myself and all of them," meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner said. "When we come in, they just make this newsroom come alive. Everybody sometimes comes in groggy, and you've got Adam talking about the Virginia Tech this or that or something going on. Alison, you can hear her a mile away coming down the hall." Hirsbrunner said they are "sorely going to be missed."

Marks went on to describe Ward as "the kind of guy who, if he was on his way home from work and heard about something breaking, would turn around and go do it." Parker started as an intern years ago and rejoined the WDBJ7 team a year ago. McBroom said her late colleague "soared" and was "so kind."

Jadhon said the WDBJ7 news team is understandably in shock, adding, "You can hear people in the newsroom crying...It's really hard to even comprehend. We cover these things all the time but this is different."

At 10:30 a.m. local time Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said police were chasing the suspect on Interstate 64 and his arrest is imminent. McAuliffe said on a radio show that the suspect is believed to be a disgruntled employee of WDBJ-TV.

E! News shares its condolences with the victims' families and the WDBJ7 team.

Watch E! News' tribute to stars who died in 2015 below:

Watch: In Memoriam: Fallen Stars of 2016

(Originally published on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, at 6:54 a.m. PDT.)