Everything We Know About the Live WDBJ Shooting and the Alleged Gunman
On Wednesday August 26 at 6:45 a.m., Alison Parker, a WDBJ news reporter, and Adam Ward, a cameraman, were shot dead during a live broadcast. The shooter, Bryce Williams, was a disgruntled former station employee who allegedly filmed the murders and posted the videos to Twitter and Facebook before attempting to shoot himself.
[There was a video here]
Here’s everything else we know about the case so far.
According to reports Vester Lee Flanagan—known professionally as Bryce Williams—was a 41-year-old former multimedia reporter with WDBJ. Flanagan was apparently fired by the station, though it may not have been a recent dismissal—according to his LinkedIn, he left the station in February, 2013.
The station’s general manager tells BuzzFeed, “Vester was an unhappy man. We employed him as a reporter and he had some talent in that respect and some experience... He quickly gathered a reputation of someone who was difficult to work with. He was sort of looking out to people to say things he could take offense to. Eventually, after many incidents of his anger, we dismissed him. He did not take that well. We had to call police to escort him from the building.”
And Flanagan clearly held a grudge against his former co-workers. A Twitter account listed under the name, @bryce_williams7, posted its first tweet on August 12 and continued updating until around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday. Many of the early tweets tout Williams’ former stints as a child model and “prince” of his 11th grade homecoming. In another tweet, he discusses being a Jehovah’s Witness and later claims he was once a “high paid ‘companion’”
But in more recent updates, posted after the shooting, the Williams account addresses the station directly, accusing Parker and Ward of wronging him on the job.
ABC reports that someone—purportedly Flanagan—also faxed the network a 23-page manifesto sometime between Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. They have since turned that over to the authorities.
Shortly after the shooting, Flanagan reportedly attempted to commit suicide on the I-66 outside Roanoke. According to a statement from the Virginia State Police, a trooper “initiated a traffic stop on the suspect vehicle,” however the “vehicle refused to stop and sped away from the trooper.” Flanagan had posted cell phone video of the shooting to his social media accounts minutes before. He is currently in critical condition but “still has a pulse.”
Update 4:45 p.m.
ABC has published excerpts from a 23-page manifesto faxed around 8:26 a.m. by a person purporting to be Flanagan. In the document, Flanagan praises other shooters, both alleged and convicted, and says the racism behind the Charleston shooting “sent him over the top.”
According to the network, Flanagan called less than two hours after the fax came through to confess to the shootings.
Footage of the shooting aired during a WDBJ live broadcast at Bridgewater Plaza, a shopping center in Moneta, VA, around 6:45 a.m. EST. In the clip that made it to air, Parker can be seen interviewing Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, as the first shot rings out. Parker, who was hit first, starts to scream and runs away. The camera drops to the ground, but not before capturing a brief shot of the shooter, who can be seen holding a gun as he advances.
Parker and Ward were both killed in the melee and apparently pronounced dead at the scene. Gardner, who didn’t appear to be a target, was hit in the back and is currently in surgery. The shooter was able to flee.
In the ensuing five hours, Williams, who was reportedly being pursued by law enforcement somewhere on Virginia’s I-64, managed to update both his Twitter and Facebook accounts with accusations against his dead co-workers and first-person video footage of the shooting. The accounts were ultimately suspended around 11:15 a.m.—but not before the footage went viral.
In one video uploaded to Twitter, the shooter points the gun at Parker and whispers, “Bitch.” In the second video, he can be seen shooting Parker in the torso at least four times as she runs away screaming. The camera goes dark as he fires at least another six shots. An uncut version of the same clips was also uploaded to a Facebook page listed under Williams’ name.
He was apparently updating the accounts while simultaneously fleeing from authorities in a gray 2009 Ford. According to the AP, state police were eventually able to run Williams off the road. He reportedly attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself but was, at least initially, unsuccessful—he’s reportedly in critical condition.
Two WDBJ employees—Alison Parker, a 24-year-old reporter, and Adam Ward, a 27-year-old cameraman—were killed in the shooting. Their interview subject, Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce Vicki Gardner, was shot in the back and went into surgery. As of this afternoon, she is reportedly in stable condition.
Both Parker and Ward were reportedly in romantic relationships with other WDBJ staffers.
Ward was said to be engaged to a morning producer at the show who was in the control room and saw the shootings live. It was reportedly her last day at the network and the pair were planning to celebrate at a staff party later that afternoon. CNN’s Brian Stelter reports they were planning to leave the station and move to Charlotte.
Parker was reportedly dating Chris Hurst, an anchor at the network.
We didn't share this publicly, but @AParkerWDBJ7 and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb. pic.twitter.com/tUrHVwAXcN— Chris Hurst (@chrishurstwdbj) August 26, 2015
Hurst later tweeted that the pair had tried to keep their relationship quiet but had been together almost nine months.
“It was the best nine months of our lives. 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.”
WDBJ7 has posted a tribute to both Parker and Ward.