Two television journalists at WDBJ7 in Virginia, 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old photographer Adam Ward, were shot to death during a live broadcast on Wednesday morning in Moneta, Virginia.
Police identified the alleged shooter as Vester Lee Flanagan, a man who worked for WDBJ under the name Bryce Williams and was fired two years ago. On Twitter and Facebook, Flanagan uploaded videos of the shooting to an account using the Williams name (both of which was suspended soon after). State police reported to WDBJ that Flanagan shot himself on I-66 shortly after his tweets were deleted. Sheriff Bill Overton later confirmed during a press conference that Flanagan died of “a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
“We still have a lengthy investigation to conduct, and that’s our focus as we move forward,” Overton said. Part of this investigation involves looking at a 23-page fax ABC News received “sometime between Tuesday night and [Wednesday] morning” from someone claiming to be Williams.
ABC News reports that this document was titled “A Suicide Note to Friends and Family,” in which Williams allegedly writes that June’s Charleston shooting — where Dylann Roof shot nine people to death at a church service — was “what sent [him] over the top.”
At the press conference, Overton also confirmed that the police station first received a call about the shooting at 6:43 a.m. Wednesday morning. Parker and Ward were filming a segment at Bridgewater Plaza, a shopping center in the area, when shots were fired. WDBJ7 confirmed their deaths on Twitter a little after 9 a.m.
WDBJ7 general manager Jeff Marks appeared on air shortly after the attack to comment on their deaths. “We do not know the motive,” he said. “We do know that the Franklin County Sheriff … they are working very diligently to track down both the motive and the person responsible for this terrible crime against two fine journalists.”
WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst also addressed the shooting on Twitter, revealing that he and Parker “were very much in love” and had “just moved in together.” “We were together almost nine months,” he tweeted. “It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday.”
He went on to call her “the most radiant woman” he’s ever met, and expressed his appreciation for his team at work. “I am comforted by everynoe at @WDBJ7,” he wrote. “We are a family. She worked with Adam every day. They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancée.” According to CNN, Ward’s fiancée was in the control room at the time of the shooting.
Vicki Gardner, a member of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, was also injured in the attack. She’s in stable condition.