UPDATE: According to CBS’ WTVR, the alleged shooter was former WDBJ employee Vester L. Flanagan, who used the on-air name Bryce Williams. He worked at the company as a reporter for a year but was fired from the station. Flanagan reportedly posted videos of the fatal shooting on Wednesday via Twitter and Facebook. His accounts have since been suspended.
According to CBS, Flanagan shot himself as officers were trying to approach him before noon on Wednesday. Virginia Police later confirmed that Flanagan was pronounced dead at the hospital at 1:26 p.m. ET.
ORIGINAL STORY: A reporter and photographer for WDBJ News in Franklin County, Va., were killed during a live broadcast on Wednesday, Aug. 26, when a gunman opened fire at the shopping center where they were conducting an interview. Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were doing a story about a local business at Bridgewater Plaza around 6:45 a.m. when the shooting began.
After the first shots rang out, the camera fell to the ground, at which point the gunman appeared briefly on camera. According to WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks, the shooter is believed to have fired six or seven times.
“We do not know the motive. We do not know who the killer is,” Marks said during coverage of the tragedy. “We do know 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.”
Of Parker and Ward, he added, “Our hearts are broken.”
According to her bio on WDBJ’s website, Parker started at the station as an intern. A graduate of James Madison University’s School of Media Arts and Design, she also worked at WCTI News in Jacksonville, N.C., before becoming the morning reporter for WDBJ’s Roanoke station.
Her colleague Kimberly McBroom — who was at the anchor desk when the station cut away from the horrific scene — described the young journalist as a “rock star,” adding, “You throw anything at that girl and she could do it.”
— Chris Hurst (@chrishurstwdbj) August 26, 2015
Hours after the tragedy, Chris Hurst, Parker’s boyfriend and co-worker, also paid tribute to the late reporter via Twitter. “We didn’t share this publicly, but @AParkerWDBJ7 and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb,” he captioned a photo of the pair.
“We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives,” he added in follow-up tweets. “We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday. She was the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back. She loved her family, her parents and her brother.”
He continued: “I am comforted by everyone at WDBJ7. We are a family. She worked with Adam every day. They were a team. I am heartbroken for [Ward’s] fiancee [Melissa Ott]. She is our morning show producer. This is unconscionable. But I WILL share her story because it is one full of life, dreams, love and amazing journalism. She just finished working on an incredible special on child abuse and it was fantastic. We will get through this and there will be justice. Your thoughts and prayers mean the world to me.”
— Brent Watts (@wattsupbrent) August 26, 2015
Virginia Tech grad Ward had recently told Ott that he wanted to “get out of news” and “do something else.”
WDBJ7 meteorologist Brent Watts is also mourning the loss of his late colleagues. He retweeted a smiling photo of Parker and Ward, agreeing that that is how everyone should remember them. “So saddened by our loss today at @WDBJ,” Watts wrote. “Life is so precious, and this morning we lost two precious members of our family.”
Our thoughts go out to Parker and Ward’s family and friends.