UPDATE with more information: Police officials confirmed that a former Roanoke TV station employee who has had been identified as the suspect in the killing of a news reporter and cameraman during a live morning-news broadcast has died after shooting himself during a pursuit on Interstate 66 in Virginia.
The suspect has been identified as former WDBJ-TV on-air anchor Vester Flanagan, known as Bryce Williams, after he posted video of the shooting of his former colleagues Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, as well as other entries on his Twitter account. That account was suspended. He also allegedly sent a 23-page fax to ABC News this morning, which was turned over to authorities. ABC News reported the sender said the Charleston, S.C. shooting “sent me over the top” and he had put down a deposit for the gun two days later; the news division said the sender wrote in the document, “my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
The killings took place at a pedestrian plaza in Moneta, VA, during a tourism news story for the CBS affiliate television station owned by Schurz Communications. Flanagan was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound on I-66 and died at about 1:30 PM ET at a hospital in northern Virginia after he was taken into custody, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said during a news conference live on the cable networks which have been covering the story all day.
In the video of the killings, reporter Parker is seen interviewing Vicki Gardner, the head of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, at Bridgewater Plaza at 6:45 AM ET. Without warning, multiple shots can be heard ringing out, as Parker and the woman scream and the camera falls to the ground. The video then cuts to a stunned anchor in the WDBJ newsroom.
The station soon confirmed on air that Parker and Ward were killed in the shooting. A man dressed in dark clothing is visible standing near the two women, holding what appears to be a gun. He can be seen leaving before the video cuts away.
Here is how the station reported it (WARNING: This is graphic video):
The Roanoke Times reported Gardner was shot in the back and was in surgery. Barb Nocera, special projects manager with the Chamber of Commerce, confirmed that information to the newspaper. She is in stable condition.
“It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kinds of incidents,” President Obama said this afternoon in an interview at the White House with ABC’s Philadelphia o&o, WPVI. “I think it’s one more argument for why we need to look at how we can reduce gun violence in this country.”
According to the Roanoke Times, 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.
ABC News reported this afternoon that a man identifying himself as the suspect called over the past several weeks saying he wanted to pitch a story. The fax was received this morning and has a time stamp of 8:26 AM. About 90 minutes later, the same person called ABC News and said he had shot two people, hanging up shortly thereafter.
Deadline’s Lisa de Moraes contributed to this report.
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