Suspect in on-air shooting of TV journalists dies

Vester Flanagan shot himself after police pursuit following shooting of WDBJ7 reporters

The suspect in the on-air shooting of two Virginia television journalists was pronounced dead at a hospital at about 1.30pm local time on Wednesday, Virginia state police have said.

The suspect, Vester Flanagan (41), had shot and wounded himself after a police pursuit following the shooting of the journalists from CBS affiliate WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia.

The two television journalists were shot and killed in Virginia while conducting a live interview.

Virginia State Police said as they were pursuing the suspect, he drove off the road and crashed and was found suffering from a gunshot wound.


After the shooting of the journalists, someone claiming to have filmed it posted video online that appeared to be from gunman’s vantage point.

The videos were posted to a Twitter account and on Facebook, but were removed shortly afterward. One video clearly showed a handgun as the person filming approached the woman reporter.

The shooting occurred at about 6.45am (local time) during an interview being broadcast live from Bridgewater Plaza, a Smith Mountain Lake recreation site with restaurants, shops, boating and arcades and holiday rentals.

The area is in the south-central part of the state, about 190 km from the capital of Richmond.

The journalists were filming an interview for the morning news show of CBS affiliate WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia. In the broadcast, shots were heard and the reporter and the person being interviewed screamed and ducked for cover.

The reporter Alison Parker, (24), and the cameraman, Adam Ward, (27), died in the incident, WDBJ7 said. The woman being interviewed was wounded.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in interview on Washington radio station WTOP that the suspected gunman had been identified as a disgruntled current or former station employee.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has taken the lead on apprehending the suspect, with help from state police and others, McAuliffe told WTOP.

“Heartbroken over senseless murders today in Smith Mountain Lake,” McAuliffe said on Twitter.

Asked on CNN if the station had been targeted or had been threatened, WDBJ7 President and General Manager Jeff Marks said, "Every now and then you get a crazy email or something and we'll look into it. Nothing of this nature than any of us could recall."

He said the interview was to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Smith Mountain Lake, and the woman being interviewed was from the local chamber of commerce. She had been talking about the anniversary and tourism.

“We don’t make a secret of where we report from, we may start now,” Marks said.

There was no word yet from the hospital on the condition of the woman, identified as Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The station’s broadcast showed Parker interviewing Gardner about the lake and tourism development in the area. Gunshots erupted, and as Ward fell his camera hit the ground but kept running. An image caught on camera showed what appeared to be a man in dark clothing facing the camera with a weapon in his right hand.

The station said on its website that both the dead journalists were from the region.

Parker grew up in Martinsville and attended Patrick Henry Community College and James Madison University, while Ward graduated from Salem High School and Virginia Tech, the station said.

They were both engaged to be married to other people.