Tuesday 6 December 2016

Live US TV shootings: suspected gunman dies

Published 26/08/2015 | 14:38

Screenshot from WDBJ-TV7, in Roanoke, of reporter Alison Parker and Adam Ward (WDBJ-TV7/AP)
Screenshot from WDBJ-TV7, in Roanoke, of reporter Alison Parker and Adam Ward (WDBJ-TV7/AP)
Two TV new crew members have been shot dead during a live interview in the US

A man suspected of shooting two US TV news journalists dead during a live broadcast has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

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Vester Flanagan died following a lengthy police pursuit after reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed on air as they worked on a live broadcast at a shopping centre in Moneta, central Virginia.

Flanagan, who went by the name Bryce Williams on the air, was found with a gunshot wound after his car crashed.

He was a former employee at TV channel WDBJ-TV. According to officials, he was known for being unhappy, angry and hard to work with, and had been sacked.

A third person, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, who was being interviewed by Ms Parker, was injured in the shooting.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office said that video recorded by the station's camera shows the male suspect holding a weapon.

Video shows Ms Parker carrying out an interview about tourism on Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County. She smiles before at least eight shots are heard. The camera appears to drop to the ground and the reporter can be heard screaming.

The station then switches back to a shot of a presenter back at the station, who has a shocked expression on her face.

In a tweet, the station said: "We love you, Alison and Adam."

The gunman later posted a video he filmed of the shootings.

The chilling footage shows a gun in his hand, pointing at Ms Parker and her attempting to flee when he opens fire.

The Twitter account used to post the video also included the comments "I filmed the shooting see Facebook", "Adam went to (human resources) on me after working with me one time!!!" and "Alison made racist comments. EEOC report filed. They hired her after that???"

The account was later suspended but the video had already been copied and was viewable elsewhere online.

WDBJ-TV went live for its noon broadcast, giving details about the suspect.

It said Vester Lee Flanagan II appeared on air at the station as Bryce Williams.

Also, ABC News reported that someone using the name Bryce Williams faxed the organisation a lengthy 23-page document that it has turned over to authorities.

The station's website says Mr Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech, while Ms Parker had just turned 24 and attended James Madison University.

The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the south-west and central part of the state.

Jeffrey Marks, WDBJ's president and general manager, said 41-year-old Flanagan had to be escorted by police out of the station when he was sacked.

Mr Marks described him as "an unhappy man" and "difficult to work with," always "looking out for people to say things he could take offence to".

"Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. He did not take that well," Mr Marks explained.

Video posted hours after the shooting on Bryce Williams' Twitter account and Facebook page showed an outstretched arm holding the handgun and firing repeatedly at Ms Parker as she tried to run away.

The shooter appeared to walk up to the victims and stand close by from them while holding the weapon. The three, in the midst of a live TV interview, do not seem to notice the gunman, who does not start shooting until Mr Ward points the camera at Ms Parker.

Mr Ward was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, who was celebrating her last day on the job and was in the control room, watching it live, as the shooting unfolded, Mr Marks said.

Tweets posted on Williams' Twitter account described workplace conflicts with both victims. They say Williams filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) against Ms Parker, and that Mr Ward had reported Williams to human resources.

Mr Marks said Williams alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but said his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated.

"We think they were fabricated," Mr Marks said.

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

"This gentleman was disturbed at way things had turned out at some point in his life. Things were spiralling out of control," Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton Jr said at a news conference.

Both the victims were romantically involved with other employees at the station, according to Ms Parker's boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst.

He wrote online that they had not shared their relationship publicly but "were very much in love".

Mr Hurst said they had just moved in together and wanted to get married. "I am numb," he said.

The shooting happened around 6.45am at Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County, as Ms Parker interviewed Ms Gardner about the upcoming 50th anniversary festivities for Smith Mountain Lake, a local tourism destination.

WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan said of Mr Ward: " Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked.

"He did live shots during our morning show for several years."

Ms Parker had joined the station as an intern after attending James Madison University, where she was the editor of the school's newspaper, The Breeze.

According to her Facebook page, Ms Parker spent most of her life outside Martinsville, Virginia. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theatre events in her spare time.

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