Roanoke TV reporter, cameraman shot, killed on-air

Suspect, a former WDBJ-TV on-air anchor, also shoots interview suspect, later fatally shoots self on I-66 in Fauquier country after police pursuit.

Young Roanoke, Virginia TV reporter, cameraman both shot and killed during live broadcast interview. (Screen image via WDBJ-TV web site)

ROANOKE, Va., Aug. 26, 2015 – According to Deadline and national and local Roanoke news outlets, state police officials confirmed Wednesday that Vester Flanagan, former WDBJ-TV on-air anchor known as Bryce Williams, was identified as the suspect in the shooting deaths of WDBJ news reporter Alison Parker, 24, and her cameraman Adam Ward, 27.

The suspect later committed suicide in northern Virginia, fatally shooting himself in his car near mile marker 17 on I-66 in Fauquier County, according to WDBJ-TV.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward, the victims in Wednesday's senseless shooting in Roanoke. (Screen capture, WDBJ/CBS news)
Alison Parker and Adam Ward, the victims in Wednesday’s senseless shooting in Roanoke. (Screen capture, WDBJ/CBS news)

Both members of the CBS-affiliated station’s TV crew were shot without warning in the midst of a live, locally televised morning-news broadcast. During the segment, which took place at 6:45 a.m. at the Bridgewater Plaza in nearby Moneta, Va., Parker was discussing an upcoming tourist-oriented event with Vicki Gardner, head of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, when the shootings began.

Shot in the back during the fatal melee, Gardner was transported to a local hospital, where she was reported by the Roanoke Times to be in surgery. She is currently in stable condition, according to a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson.

The suspect in the shooting was later identified by authorities after he allegedly posted to his Twitter and Facebook pages a hand-held video of the shootings he had apparently recorded himself. Those accounts have since been suspended. What appears to be the identical video was posted on YouTube, where it attracted a surprising number of inappropriate comments. YouTube has since removed all videos of the shooting.

The live, on-air version of the video that early-morning Roanoke area TV viewers witnessed concludes with a sudden cut back to the stunned studio anchor.

Stunned WDBJ-TV studio anchor can't believe what she just saw live. 

As details of this tragedy unfolded, an apparent additional puzzle piece surfaced at another network, according to CBS News

ABC News reported on its website that the network received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be Williams. The network says the fax was turned over to authorities and did not elaborate on its contents.

Later Wednesday morning, according to CBS, “Police pursued Williams’ car when they spotted it on an interstate highway in northern Virginia,” not far from Washington, DC.

Continuing its coverage, the network cited a state police-issued statement that

“… said a vehicle belonging to the suspect, identified by the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office as Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, was spotted at 11:30 a.m. on Interstate 66. Police attempted to pull the vehicle over, but it sped away, eventually running off the road and crashing.

“Inside the vehicle, troopers found the suspect suffering from a gunshot wound, the state police said. He was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.”

Roanoke shooting suspect, former WDBJ news anchor Bryce Williams (aka Vester Flanagan), photo appearing earlier today on WDBJ website.
Roanoke shooting suspect, former WDBJ news anchor Bryce Williams (aka Vester Flanagan), photo appearing earlier today on WDBJ website.

Flanagan was later pronounced dead.

Both WDBJ and Deadline later provided some background on today’s tragic incident.

“According to the Roanoke Times,” noted Deadline, “Flanagan was hired at the station in spring 2012 after working at stations in San Francisco, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Georgia. After WDBJ let him go in February 2013, he filed a lawsuit in May 2014 in Roanoke General District Court, seeking money he felt he was owed and additional damages and alleging discrimination, naming most of the WDBJ staff in his complaint. The case was dismissed in July 2014.”



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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17