TV on-air shooting: Ward's fiancée was watching

2015-08-26 19:50
A Roanoke police officer moves road cones back into position after letting a vehicle through at WDBJ's digital broadcast centre. (Erica Yoon, AP)

A Roanoke police officer moves road cones back into position after letting a vehicle through at WDBJ's digital broadcast centre. (Erica Yoon, AP)

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Washington - Two journalists for a local CBS affiliate in Virginia were shot dead on Wednesday in a chilling live television broadcast, and the suspected gunman, apparently a disgruntled former station employee, has shot himself.

The suspect - Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, also known as Bryce Williams - was in critical condition, media cited police as saying, after initial reports that he too was dead.

Another video of the deadly on-air shooting - apparently filmed by the assailant - was posted on Twitter and Facebook. The footage was later taken down.

The killings, which sparked an intense manhunt and prompted a lockdown of local schools, once again highlighted fears about gun violence in America.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were fatally shot at close range while conducting an on-air interview for WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. 

"You send people into war zones and into dangerous situations, into riots and you worry that they're going to get hurt," WDBJ general manager Jeffrey Marks - who earlier confirmed the deaths to viewers - told CNN.

"You send somebody out to do a story on tourism, and this - how can you ever expect something like this to happen?"

Marks said Parker and Ward were "both in love with other members of the team" at the station.

"I am numb," Parker's boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, said on Twitter.

"We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married."

Shots heard, and screams

Parker was talking to Vicki Gardner, head of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, on a balcony at the lakeside Bridgewater Resort in the town of Moneta near Roanoke when the attack occurred.

The pair were talking about tourism development for WDBJ's early-morning newscast when the gunman seemingly closed in from behind.

Several shots were heard, as well as screams, as Ward's camera fell to the floor, capturing a fuzzy and chilling glimpse of the gunman, dressed in dark clothing.

The station then cut away to a startled anchorwoman back in the studio.

Gardner was "seriously injured", said one of the US senators from Virginia, Tim Kaine.

Later, a video posted under the Twitter account @bryce_williams7, shows the shooter brandishing a weapon at Parker, who is interviewing a woman and unaware of his presence.

Ward has his back to the apparent shooter and was also unaware of his presence.

The shooter seems to briefly lower the camera.

Multiple shots are then heard, and screams.

The shooter's hand is clearly visible. He appears to be wearing a blue chequered shirt.

'Heartbroken' 

On her Facebook page, Parker - whose birthday was just a week ago - described herself as the "mornin' reporter" at WDBJ and a ballroom dancing enthusiast.

"She worked with Adam every day," said Hurst. "They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee."

Ward's fiancée, Melissa Ott, a producer at the TV station, was in the control room when the shooting occurred and watched it unfold, Marks told CNN.

"It's hard to believe, isn't it," the grief-stricken station manager said.

Ott was working her last day at WDBJ before moving on to another station in another city, and looking forward to a farewell party with her colleagues.

"This was going to be a day of celebration for her time here and wishing her good luck," Marks said.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe told Washington's WTOP all-news radio that the incident highlighted the need for tighter gun controls.

"There are too many guns in the hands of people who should not have guns," he said. "There is too much gun violence in the United States of America."


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