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Parker was shot to death along with cameraman Adam Ward on early Wednesday morning

By Tara Fowler
Updated August 26, 2015 02:55 PM
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The father of slain WDBJ reporter Alison Parker has paid an emotional tribute to his daughter after the 24-year-old TV reporter was shot and killed on live TV Wednesday morning.

“Barbara, Drew, and I are numb, devastated and I find my grief unbearable. Alison was our bright, shining light and it was cruelly extinguished by yet another crazy person with a gun,” Andy Parker said in a statement.

“She excelled at everything she did and was loved by everyone she touched. She loved us dearly, and we talked to her every single day.

“Not hearing her voice again crushes my soul. Our family can only take solace in the fact that although her life was brief, she was so happy with it. She lived it to the fullest and her spirit will always be with us.”

Parker was shot to death along with cameraman Adam Ward as the pair filmed a live interview about local tourism. A third victim, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was shot in the back as she tried to flee. She is in stable condition following surgery at a local hospital.

Andy Parker also gave an interview to The Washington Post in which he said: “Is this real? Am I going to wake up? I am crying my eyes out. I don’t know if there’s anybody in this world or another father who could be more proud of their daughter.”

Police have identified Bryce Williams, a.k.a. Vester L. Flanagan, a former employee of the news station, as the suspect in the brutal shootings. Williams is dead after shooting himself earlier Wednesday morning.

Andy Parker says he was disgusted to learn that Williams had posted a video of the shooting online. “It’s like showing those beheadings,” he said. “I am not going to watch it. I can’t watch it. I can’t watch any news. All it would do is rip out my heart further than it already it is.”

‘Always So Eager to Learn’

At James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, she was remembered as a talented, hard-working student and a bright journalist, even in her earliest years in the profession.

“She was a very excellent student here. A lot of us said she was one of the best journalism students to come through at that time period,” Brad Jenkins, the faculty adviser for The Breeze, JMU’s student newspaper, told PEOPLE.

“I had really expected to one day see her working on CNN or some other major broadcast outlets because she had a really good news sense, and she also just had a really great personality,” he added.

Parker had recently moved in with her boyfriend Chris Hurst, a fellow reporter at WDBJ. In a series of heartbreaking Tweets earlier Wednesday, he remembered her as “the most radiant woman I ever met.”

“Your thoughts and prayers mean the world to me,” he wrote.

Anchor Kimberly McBroom called Parker a “rock star,” adding: “You throw anything at that girl and she could do it.”

In her station biography, Parker said that she liked to “whitewater kayak, play with her parents’ dog Jack, and attend community theater events.”

‘A Phenomenal Person’

Meanwhile, Ward had recently become engaged to a WDBJ producer named Melissa Ott. She was in the control room watching the live video feed when her husband-to-be was shot to death.

As he lay dying, Ward managed to capture an image of the man who killed him.

“It shows how dedicated how Adam Ward was that at that last moments his camera was rolling, he was doing his job to the last minute,” McBloom said.

Added WDBJ senior reporter Joe Dashiell: “I know he would’ve been the first one there to help Alison.”

In a statement, Solina Lewis, a friend of Ward and Ott’s described the cameraman as “an incredible person” and a “great journalist.”

“I just can’t hammer home enough that he was a phenomenal person,” said Solina Lewis.

In a broadcast later Wednesday morning, Dashiell said that both Ward and Parker were natives of the area.

“Alison was a graduate of Martinsville High School and James Madison University,” he said. “She loved the outdoors.”

He added: “Adam attended Salem High School, where he played football. He was a Virginia Tech Graduate and a huge Hokies fan. Both worked here as interns at WDBJ7 before they signed on as employees.”

The pair worked together for a little over a year, according to Dashiell, “covering breaking news, community events.”

“They did it well,” he concluded.

‘An Unhappy Man’

Two videos depicting the graphic killings were uploaded to a Twitter account in Williams’ name shortly after the shootings. That account was quickly suspended and the videos were taken down.

One video shows a person filming himself approaching Parker as she interviews a woman on-air. The person holds the gun up and Parker screams.

In the second video, the individual can be seen firing at Parker, and Parker begins to run away. Six shots are fired before the video fades to black.

The user also claimed on Twitter that Parker “made racist comments” and wrote that “Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!”

WDBJ general manager Jeff Marks described Williams as “an unhappy man” who “quickly gathered a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with,” and was dismissed. He said Williams filed an action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging racism at the station, but that the EEOC had “dismissed the claim out of hand, and that was that.”

ABC News said Wednesday that it received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be Williams. That fax has been turned over to authorities.

With reporting by DIANE HERBST and ERIN HILL

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