Gunman In Deadly On-Air Attack Dies After Manhunt
MONETA, Virginia - A suspect in the deadly shooting of a television reporter and cameraman during a live report Wednesday morning shot himself and later died at a Virginia hospital, authorities said.
GRAPHIC VIDEO WARNING: THE VIDEO ATTACHED TO THIS STORY SHOWS THE SHOOTING TAKING PLACE DURING THE LIVE BROADCAST.
Virginia State Police Sgt. Rick Garletts said that the suspect, identified as Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, died at approximately 1:30 p.m. of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Earlier Wednesday, the state police said a vehicle belonging to the suspect was spotted at 11:30 a.m. on Interstate 66. Police attempted to pull the vehicle over, but it sped away, eventually running off the road and crashing.
Inside the vehicle, troopers found the suspect suffering from a gunshot wound, the state police said. He was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Garletts said a license-plate reader alerted the troopers to the suspect's vehicle.
Authorities described the gunman as a disgruntled station employee. A second video of the shooting, apparently recorded by the killer, was posted on social media even as police tried to locate the suspect.
CBS Roanoke affiliate WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker was interviewing an economic development official about local tourism as eight shots rang out. She screamed, ran and could be heard saying "Oh my God," as she too was shot. Adam Ward's camera captured a fleeting image, including the face, of a man holding a handgun.
WDBJ quickly switched back to a shot of the anchor back at the station, her eyes large and jaw dropping 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."
The station said Flanagan appeared on air as Bryce Williams.
In an interview with CBSN, WDBJ general manager Jeffrey Marks said Flanagan's name came to mind "instantly" when he heard about the shooting.
"He left here in a cloud ... We asked him to leave and that itself was difficult," Marks said.
Video of the shooting was later posted on the Twitter account and Facebook page of Bryce Williams, who was on the staff at WDBJ. It showed an outstretched arm holding the handgun and firing repeatedly at Parker as she tried to run away.
The shooter appeared to walk up to the victims and stand a few feet away from them while holding the weapon. The three, in the midst of a live TV interview, do not seem to notice the gunman, who doesn't start shooting until Ward points the camera at Parker and Gardner.
Parker is heard screaming and is seen running away as shots are fired. Roughly 15 shots can be heard, including several that were fired after the video goes dark.
Posts on the Twitter account said that a complaint was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Parker over "racist comments." Other tweets said Ward went to the station's human resources office "after working with me one time."
Marks told CBSN the EEOC complaint was dismissed.
The Facebook and Twitter accounts have been suspended.
ABC News reported on its website that the network received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be Williams. The network says the fax was turned over to authorities and did not elaborate on its contents.
Federal law enforcement was assisting, and federal officials said there was no indication of a connection to terrorism.
The shooting happened around 6:45 a.m. at Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County, as Parker interviewed Vicki Gardner about the upcoming 50th anniversary festivities for Smith Mountain Lake, a local tourism destination. Gardner also was shot and hospitalized.
Both the victims were romantically involved with other employees at the station, according to Parker's boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst.
Parker had just turned 24. She had just completed a special report on child abuse for the station, where she had worked as an intern. She attended James Madison University, where she was the editor of the school's newspaper, The Breeze. According to her Facebook page, Parker spent most of her life outside Martinsville, Virginia. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theater events in her spare time.
Hurst said they hadn't shared their relationship publicly but "were very much in love." He said they had just moved in together and wanted to get married. "I am numb," he said.
Ward, 27, graduated from Virginia Tech University and was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, said WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan.
"Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked," Morgan said. "He did live shots during our morning show for several years."
The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the southwest and central part of the state. The shopping mall where the incident happened is just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, about 25 miles southeast of Roanoke.