A young reporter who had just turned 24 years old was killed on live television in a horrific shooting this morning. Alison Parker with WDBJ is dead after being gunned down in the town of Moneta, Virginia, while conducting an on-air interview.
Her cameraman, Adam Ward, 27, is also dead. The attack happened around 6:45 a.m.
The suspect, said to be a disgruntled former employee of the TV station, has been identified as Vester Lee Flanagan. He fled the scene and later shot himself as police closed in on him. Flanagan was pronounced dead a short time later.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. In Total, 3 People Were Gunned Down
The incident happened at Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, Virginia. WDBJ reports that the situation is being regarded as an “active shooter” by law enforcement, who are in pursuit of a suspect.
WSLS reports that there are in total three victims of the shooting. The third victim is Vicki Gardner, the executive director at Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, who was the subject of the on-air interview. She is still alive and in surgery at a hospital.
On CNN, WDBJ7 General Manager and President Jeffrey A. Marks said, “You never expect something like to happen.” Meanwhile, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said that the suspect is a former, disgruntled, WDBJ employee.
2. Her Boyfriend, WDBJ Anchor Chris Hurst, Called Parker ‘the Most Radiant Woman I Ever Met’
Parker’s boyfriend was WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst. He paid tribute to his girlfriend on Twitter, writing, “We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday.”
Hurst called Parker “the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back.” The anchor also took the time to mourn Adam Ward. Meanwhile her father, Andy Parker, told the Washington Post:
My grief is unbearable…Is this real? Am I going to wake up? I’m crying my eyes out…Some journalists want to be right out there covering ISIL. She did not want that. She was not keen on jumping into a middle of a firefight some place.
He also said that after he found out about the shooting he “had some hope, but I knew in my heart of hearts. Alison would have called me to say she was okay.”
3. She ‘Grew Up Watching WDBJ’
According to her Twitter account, Parker was the morning reporter for WDBJ. She noted on her LinkedIn page that she worked with a cameraman for WDBJ Monday through Friday. She had been with the station since May 2014. You can watch the video of her first day on the job above.
On her profile on WDBJ’s website, it says that she joined the station as an intern while she was a student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, graduating in December 2012. One online profile says that she was part of a dual enrollment program with Patrick Henry Community College, where in addition to studying broadcast media at James Madison, she studied math and chemistry at Patrick Henry.
From there, according to her LinkedIn page, she went to work as a producer at WHSV-TV and for WCTI-TV, the Fox affiliate in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She was also a contributing writer for Port and Main magazine. When she joined WDBJ, Parker told the Roanoke Times, “It was that internship that took the skills I learned at JMU and allowed me to apply them. That internship made me fall in love with the business, and I knew broadcast journalism was exactly what I wanted to pursue. … I grew up watching WDBJ7. So it’s wonderful be back in Virginia and to be a part of the news team here.” She was a graduate of Martinsville High School.
4. She Was an Outdoors Person With a Passion for Local Theater
Parker’s WDBJ profile says that she liked to spend her spare time kayaking, playing with her parents’ dog and going to community theater. On her Facebook page, Parker said that she grew up in Martinsville, Virginia, but was living in Roanoke at the time of her death. Parker’s WCTI profile adds that she was also a Jeopardy fanatic.
5. The Suspected Gunman Tweeted Racist Allegations About Her
Vester Lee Flanagan, who posted a video of the shooting, also tweeted about his possible motivations:
Flanagan is said to be a disgruntled former employee of the station and not a terrorist or random shooter. However, NBC New York reports that as a result of the shooting, TV stations in New York were increasing security.