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Suspected Shooter in Virginia Killing of Reporter and Cameraman Is Confirmed Dead

The victims were identified as reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Both were former colleagues of the shooter.

by VICE News
Aug 26 2015, 1:30pm

Image via WDBJ/Twitter

Authorities have confirmed that the shooter responsible for killing two journalists who were former colleagues and wounding one other person on Wednesday morning has died after shooting himself. A reporter identified as Alison Parker, 24, and a cameraman named Adam Ward, 27, were fatally shot during a live broadcast for WDBJ7 in Bedford County, Virginia. A third person who was being interviewed on camera, Vicki Gardner, was shot and wounded in the back but is currently in stable condition. 

The shooter was identified as Vester Lee Flanagan, who used the name Bryce Williams while broadcasting on WDBJ. Shortly after the shooting took place, a person began posting footage and details of the crime on Twitter and Facebook accounts associated with Bryce Williams. The accounts have since been suspended. 

 "Alison made racist comments," said one Tweet. Another read, "I filmed the shooting see Facebook." 

The Augusta County Sheriff's Office had earlier confirmed that Flanagan killed himself, but WDBJ later reported that he had a pulse and was in very critical condition. Virginia State Police said Flanagan was transported to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to ABC News. Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran subsequently declared that Flanagan was pronounced dead at the hospital at 1:26 PM.

ABC News said that a man called the network at approximately 10 AM and identified himself as Bryce Williams, noting that his real name was Vester Flanagan. He said that he had shot two people and was being pursued by police.

Almost two hours earlier, ABC News received a 23-page fax from someone identifying himself as Flanagan, detailing his motivations for the attack. In the fax, which the writer referred to as a "Suicide Note for Friends and Family," he said that he was enraged by the racially-motivated shooting at a Charleston church this past June that killed nine black churchgoers. He bought a gun two days later. The fax also claimed that his colleagues had discriminated against him for being black and gay.

"The church shooting was the tipping point… but my anger has been building steadily," the fax read. "I've been a human powder keg for a while… just waiting to go BOOM!!!"

The writer also said that he was inspired by other mass shootings, including the massacres at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School.

WDBJ hired Flanagan in 2012 as a general assignment and multimedia reporter, introducing him in a statement alongside another new hire as Bryce Williams. 

"Attracting Orlando and Bryce, two veteran reporters with an enormous scope of experience to our team, is a testament to the quality and professionalism of the news produced daily by the WDBJ7 team," WDBJ news director Dan Dennison said at the time.

WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks said on the air today that Flanagan was an "unhappy man" and had a reputation of being difficult to work with.

Flanagan "was sort of looking out for people to say things that he could take offense to," Marks said. "Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. And he didn't take that well. We had to call the police to escort him from the building." 

After being fired, Flanagan then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that co-workers had made racial comments, Marks added. Marks could not recall if the complaint specifically concerned Ward and Parker. 

In an interview on a local radio show shortly after the shooting took place, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said that the suspect was believed to be a "disgruntled former employee" of the news station.

Speaking in an emotional broadcast following the incident, a fellow staff member said: "This kind of loss will resonate for a long, long time as we remember in their short lives what dedicated journalists and what outstanding people they were."

"This is big news, national news, but I just can't hammer home enough that he was a phenomenal person and that's what we lost," said Solina Lewis, a friend of Ward, in a statement today. "That's what this gunman stole from our industry, from Melissa and from me."

Video footage apparently captured the moment that shots rang out. 

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