Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Virginia reporter, photographer killed by gunman identified as former co-worker; suspect shoots self

Two WDBJ7 journalists, reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward (CNN image), were killed this morning and a third person injured after a shooting at Smith Mountain Lake in Roanoke, Va., Tiffany Stevens reports for The Roanoke Times. "Part of the incident was caught on video during WDBJ's morning broadcast. The station was interviewing Vicki Gardner, head of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce." Gardner was injured in the attack and died at 1:26 p.m., almost seven hours after the shooting, The Washington Post reports.

UPDATE, 12:16 p.m.: "The man suspected of killing two WDBJ7 employees Wednesday morning shot himself on I-66 in Faquier County, according to state police. The suspected shooter has been identified as Vester Lee Flanigan, also known as Bryce Williams. He is still alive and is in critical condition. Previously, state police said Flanigan was dead."
UPDATE, 11:43 a.m.: "A former WDBJ employee has been identified as the person authorities are seeking in the slayings of two journalists from the station, and his Twitter account has a video of the attack from the shooter's perspective," reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "Twitter suspended Vester Lee Flanagan's account about 11:20 a.m., approximately 20 minutes after the video was posted. In addition to the videos, he tweeted seven times, initially directing people to his Facebook page to see the video. His Facebook page has also been shut down."

The T-D also reports, "His Twitter account is listed under Bryce Williams, a name he used professionally, including at WDBJ, which let him go in February 2013. In May 2014, Flanagan filed suit against the station in Roanoke General District Court, seeking money he felt he was owed and additional damages. His suit alleged discrimination by the station and named most of the WDBJ staff in his complaint, but in July 2014, the case was dismissed by a judge. Court records also show that he sued a television station where he formerly worked in Florida.

Franklin County Sheriff's Office deputies are searching for a suspect who is believed to be a disgruntled former employee. The suspect was being pursued by police and an arrest is "imminent," said Gov. Terry McAuliffe, CBS reports. WDBJ is a CBS affiliate. Both victims were from the Roanoke area, reports WDBJ. Parker, 24, grew up in Martinsville and attended Patrick Henry Community College and James Madison University. Ward, 27, graduated from Salem High School and Virginia Tech. CNN has a dual profile.

WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks and his staff won kudos from CNN media reporter Brian Stelter for their handling of the incident.

The Post quotes state Sen. William Stanley (R-Franklin): “We don’t have violent crime in our area. We have some property crimes, but even that is few and far between. It’s as close to Mayberry as you can get.”

UPDATE: The Roanoke Times has been all over the story, its aftermath and its background. Here's its Friday front page:

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