Suspect in Virginia News Crew Shooting Has Died
Vester Flanagan, 41, who went by Bryce Williams, opened fire on the WDBJ7 news crew during a live interview, according to Virginia State Police
The “disgruntled” former employee of a Virginia news station has died of a self-inflected gunshot wound hours after he allegedly shot and killed a reporter and cameraman during a live interview.
Vester Flanagan, 41, who went by Bryce Williams, opened fire on the WDBJ7 news crew during a live interview, according to Bill Overton of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. He then shot himself on a Fauquier County interstate on Wednesday after being pursued by state troopers, authorities announced on Wednesday afternoon.
He ran his vehicle off the road and authorities found him with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Associated Press reports. He was flown to a hospital in critical condition and died at about 1:30 p.m.
Hours earlier, Flanagan allegedly shot and killed reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, as they conducted an interview on air for the CBS affiliate in Roanoke at about 6:45 a.m. at the Bridgewater Plaza, a shopping center and fun park.
The woman being interviewed by Parker, Vicki Gardner, the head of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was shot in the back and is now in stable condition after undergoing surgery, according to a statement from Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
Flanagan had previously worked at WDBJ7, but he was fired two years ago, according to the TV station. Jeffrey Marks, WDBJ’s vice president and general manager, described Flanagan as “an unhappy man” and “difficult to work with,” according to the AP. Marks said police had to escort Flanagan out of the station when he was fired.
“Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him,” Marks added. “He did not take that well.”
A Twitter account run under Flanagan’s name shows gruesome videos of the shooting as well as a slew of photos of Flanagan. The account has since been suspended.
According to WDBJ7, authorities have not determined a motive for the shooting. But a 23-page document faxed to ABC News this morning from someone claiming to be Bryce Williams spells out a long list of grievances that led to the rampage, including revenge for the June South Carolina church shooting and the writer’s feelings of being attacked for being a gay, black man.
“The church shooting was the tipping point… but my anger has been building steadily… I’ve been a human powder keg for a while… just waiting go go BOOM!!!” the document states.
Also, the Twitter account features posts like “Alison made racist comments” and “Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!”
Marks said that during Flanagan’s time with the station, he often alleged that the other employees made racially charged comments to him. But Marks said Flanagan’s claims could never be corroborated and he thinks “they were fabricated.” He also said that Flanagan filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim against Parker that was dismissed, according to the AP.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe described Flanagan to WTOP as a “disgruntled employee of the station” and not a terrorist.
A video of the incident shows Parker interviewing a woman before multiple shots ring out. Screams are heard as the scene goes out of frame, with the camera facing the ground, and the broadcast cuts back to the anchor desk.
Parker is seen running and can be heard saying, “Oh my God.” Ward apparently falls with the camera but in the last moments of his life, the cameraman managed to capture one last image: a shot of Flanagan holding a handgun, which helped authorities identify the man.
WDBJ7 vice president Jeffrey Marks was emotional as he confirmed the two deaths Wednesday morning. He described the pair as “two fine journalists.”
“I cannot tell you how much they were loved, Alison and Adam, by the WDBJ team,” Marks said. “Our hearts are broken”
Marks added that both Parker and Ward were in relationships with others at the station. WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst posted a series of tribute Tweets to Parker, describing his girlfriend as “the most radiant woman” he has ever met.
Marks added, “We’re in shock. All there is in our building is hugging and crying and consoling.”
In a press conference, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “This is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small across the United States.”
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