Two WDBJ7 employees shot and killed; suspected shooter kills himself


The suspect accused of killing two WDBJ7 employees died at a hospital in Northern Virginia, according to Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton.

Vester Flanagan died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a Fairfax hospital around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. He is a former WDBJ7 employee.

Officials believe he shot and killed WDBJ7’s Adam Ward and Alison Parker during a live broadcast Wednesday.

Flanagan’s personal car was found at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. Flanagan rented a separate car.

Around 11:30 a.m., law enforcement tried to stop Flanagan on Interstate 66 in Fauquier County but he refused to stop. Shortly after, he shot himself.

Flanagan sent a lengthy fax about the attack to a New York media organization.

Deputies believe Flanagan opened fire on WDBJ7 photographer Adam Ward and WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker around 6:45 a.m. during a live broadcast at Bridgewater Plaza, which is on Smith Mountain Lake.

Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce was also injured in the shooting. She had surgery and is recovering.

Adam was 27-years-old. Alison just turned 24.

Both Adam and Alison were from the WDBJ7 viewing area.

Adam graduated from Salem High School and Virginia Tech.

Alison grew up in Martinsville and attended Patrick Henry Community College and James Madison University.

Flanagan worked at WDBJ7 for less than a year. He started at WDBJ7 on March 29, 2012. His employment was terminated on February 1, 2013.

His family released the following statement:

“It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. We are also praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner. Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims’ families and the WBDJ7 NEWS family. Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victims. Our family is asking that the media respect our privacy.”

Here is the news release from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office:

At 6:43 a.m., Wednesday (Aug. 26, 2015), the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call concerning shots fired at the Bridgewater Plaza near Smith Mountain Lake. A WDBJ-TV news crew was conducting a live interview at the Plaza with Ms. Gardner when Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, of Roanoke, Va., suddenly approached them and started shooting.

Two WDBJ-TV employees, Alison Parker, 24, of Roanoke, Va., and Adam Ward, 27, of Roanoke, Va. died at the scene. The woman they were interviewing, Vicki Gardner, 62, of Goodview, Va., was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where she is being treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Flanagan then fled before deputies arrived on scene. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the Virginia State Police, immediately began a search operation to locate the suspect. Information gathered at the crime scene and in interviews shortly afterward lead investigators to identify Flanagan as a suspect.

Shortly before 11 a.m., Roanoke City Police located Flanagan’s 2009 Ford Mustang at the Roanoke Regional Airport. The Mustang has been recovered as evidence.

The investigation determined that Flanagan left the airport days earlier in a Chevrolet Sonic that he had rented earlier in the month.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement was able to locate the suspect as he traveled along Interstate 81.

It was shortly before 11:30 a.m., when Virginia State Police Trooper Pamela M. Neff was on patrol along Interstate 66 and her vehicle’s License Plate Reader (LPR) alerted to the license plate of a silver Chevrolet Sonic traveling east on I-66. She followed behind for a short distance as additional troopers responded to assist and then activated her emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop.

The driver of the Sonic, Flanagan, refused to stop and sped away from the trooper. It was only a minute or two later that the Sonic ran off I-66 and into the median. When Trooper Neff approached the vehicle, she found Flanagan suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Flanagan was flown from the scene to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died at approximately 1:26 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 26, 2015).


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DeeDee Barker

Writer at The Pluto Daily
Writer/Design/Editor. Born in New Orleans but raised in Philly. DeeDee has been with the Pluto Daily since June 2014.