Virginia TV station remembers slain journalists

Suspected gunman cites Charleston mass shooting as motive for killing ex-colleagues

WDBJ weatherman Leo (centre) at the makeshift memorial with members of the crew at the studios in Roanoke, Virginia. Photograph: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images

WDBJ weatherman Leo (centre) at the makeshift memorial with members of the crew at the studios in Roanoke, Virginia. Photograph: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images

 

Colleagues of the two American journalists killed live on air on Wednesday held a moment’s silence to remember their co-workers a day after the killings as more details emerged about their murderer.

Presenter Kim McBroom, whose shocked face captured the feelings of many who watched the broadcast screams of reporter Alison Parker, led the moment of silence on the local station WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia at 6.45am – the same time that the shootings occurred.

Parker (24) and cameraman Adam Ward (27) were fatally shot as they interviewed local chamber of commerce executive Vicki Gardner outside Moneta, a town in Virginia, about 350km southwest of Washington. Ms Gardner was wounded in the attack.

Vester Lee Flanagan (41) the suspected gunman, shot himself in a car following a police chase and was pronounced dead later in hospital.

The killings marked a nadir for the social media age as Flanagan waited until the journalists were reporting live on air before shooting his victims while he filmed the killings on his own camera and posted the video later on Facebook.

Journalists around the US used social media again on Thursday to pay their respects, sharing photographs and condolences under the subject hashtag “#WeStandWith WDBJ”.

Flanagan, a former reporter at WDBJ7, a local affiliate of the CBS television network, was known on-air as Bryce Williams. He was fired from the station in 2013 after less than a year for disruptive behaviour.

The African-American claimed on social media after the killings that he shot his co-workers because Parker made racist comments and Ward had complained to the station’s bosses about him after working with him just once.

A 23-page fax sent to ABC News soon after the shootings, purportedly from Flanagan, suggested the shooting of nine black people in a Charleston church in South Carolina was another motive.

“Why did I do it?” he wrote in the meandering faxed message which he entitled in one section, “Suicide note for friends and family”. He continued: “I was already on edge. The church shooting was a tipping point. The victims’ initials are written on the bullets.”

Flanagan also wrote admiringly of the gunman in two of the worst mass shootings in the US, the Columbine school attack in Colorado that killed 13 and the Virginia Tech massacre in which 32 people died.

He had a turbulent history with employers and fellow workers at television stations where he had worked.