Ex-coworker shoots, kills news crew on live TV in Virginia

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByChuck Goudie and Ross Weidner, Ann Pistone, Christine Tressel, and Barbara Markoff via WLS logo
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
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The search has begun for answers after reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were shot and killed while conducting a live TV interview.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The search has begun for answers after reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photographer Adam Ward, 27, were shot and killed while conducting a live interview in Moneta, Va., southeast of Roanoke.

There are more than 300 workplace murders every year in the U.S.; this workplace just happened to be live television.

The shooting took place at the end of the morning newscast on WDBJ, a CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Va. The scenery was serene and the news report as benign as they come, a feature interview about tourism that was suddenly interrupted by an ex-employee of the TV station, punctuated by a series of gunshots.

The gunman waited for the camera to pan back to Parker and unloaded about 15 shots. Parker and Ward, her cameraman, were killed. Vicki Gardner, the woman being interviewed, was critically wounded.

Viewers and station colleagues saw it all.

"This place is in shock, as you might expect," said Jeff Marks, general manager of WDBJ. "There is a lot of crying and hugging going on. We can't even recon with that. People were asking, well who was shot first and what video is there and all of that and as journalists we all want to ask those questions but that is really secondary to what has happened in our organization that will last forever."

Police say the shooter was 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan, a reporter who worked under the name Bryce Williams. He had been fired from the TV station in a messy termination, and investigators believe Wednesday's attack was well-planned.

As he shot his former co-workers, he also shot video of the ambush, and after escaping posted it on social media.

State troopers caught Flanagan several hundred miles away from the attack. He fatally shot himself before being taken into custody. He also left behind a 23-page manifesto that he had sent to ABC News.

"Our investigators now have a copy of it and its use in the course of the investigation will be continuing," Franklin County sheriff Bill Overton said.

The document sent to ABC lays out a motive for the attack and says he killed his former co-workers after the recent Charleston, S.C. church shootings. Flanagan also filed a lawsuit against the station, in which he claims managers told him his behavior made other coworkers uncomfortable and that he needed medical attention. Public records show station management called 911 when they fired Flanagan, and that he walked out of the building saying he "would be back."