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2 journalists fatally shot, suspect dies at Fairfax hospital of self-inflicted gunshot

WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and Adam Ward. (WDBJ)

Vester L. Flanagan, the man suspected of fatally shooting two journalists in Moneta, Va. Wednesday morning, has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following a police chase. He was flown to INOVA Fairfax Hospital where he died at about 1:30 p.m., police say.

Vicki Gardner, the third shooting victim, is reportedly in stable condition.

WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were shot to death during a live broadcast at Bridgewater Plaza near Smith Mountain Lake shortly after 6:40 a.m. A third victim was also shot during the interview. Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital said on its Facebook page that Vicki Gardner, a local economic development official who also was on the hospital's board of directors, was recovering after the surgery. It did not elaborate on the nature of her wounds.

The Augusta County Sheriff's Department confirmed the suspect's identity as Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, of Roanoke.

Virginia State Police say they spotted a vehicle, believed to be Flanagan's, traveling eastbound on Interstate 66. Officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the suspect refused to stop the car and sped away. Minutes later, Flanagan's drove the vehicle off the road and crashed. VSP Troopers found him inside the car suffering from a gunshot wound.

Police say Flanagan's vehicle ran off the road at 17.1 mile marker and struck an embankment.

"After approaching the vehicle, troopers discovered he [the suspect] had a self-inflicted gunshot wound," police say.

ABC News says that someone using the name of the suspected gunman in the on-air shooting sent the network a lengthy fax invoking several mass shootings.

ABC News reports that a man using the name Bryce Williams called the network in the past few weeks asking to pitch a story and wanting to fax information. The organization says the man never said what the story was.

Then, ABC News says, a fax arrived with a time stamp of 8:26 a.m. Wednesday, nearly two hours after the shooting in Virginia. He called the network just after 10 a.m., introducing himself as Bryce but saying that his legal name was Vester Lee Flanagan and that he had shot two people.

Police and WDBJ-TV have identified the shooting suspect as Vester Flanagan, who used the name Bryce Williams on air when he worked for the station as a reporter. Authorities say he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound hours after the shooting.

ABC said in a story on its website that network officials immediately contacted authorities and provided them with the fax.

The 23-page document is a manifesto of sorts, saying he was motivated to kill his former co-workers after the recent Charleston church shootings. The document says Williams bought a gun June 19, two days after authorities say Dylann Roof killed nine people inside a black church. Police have called the massacre a racially motivated hate crime. The document also cites the Virginia Tech and Columbine High School killers as influences.

The TV station in Virginia has said that Flanagan alleged that other employees made racially-tinged comments to him and that he filed a complaint. But the station's general manager says the allegations couldn't be corroborated.ABC News says that someone using the name of the suspected gunman in the on-air shooting of two TV journalists sent the network a lengthy fax invoking several mass shootings.

The father of the reporter killed says "my grief is unbearable" over his daughter's death.

Andy Parker told The Washington Post that his wife first learned of the shooting in a text message from WDBJ-TV, the station for which his daughter Alison worked. He says they did not know her condition at first but feared the worst when they didn't hear from her.

Andy Parker says she would have called immediately to say she was OK. About an hour after the shooting, a senior manager at the station called the family to say Alison Parker had been killed.

Andy Parker released a statement to CNN on behalf of the family, Wednesday evening.

Barbara, Drew, and I are numb, devastated and I find my grief unbearable. Alison was our bright, shining light and it was cruelly extinguished by yet another crazy person with a gun. She excelled at everything she did and was loved by everyone she touched. She loved us dearly, and we talked to her every single day. Not hearing her voice again crushes my soul. Our family can only take solace in the fact that although her life was brief, she was so happy with it. She lived it to the fullest and her spirt will always be with us.

The gunman, Vester Flanagan II, apparently recorded the shooting that also left cameraman Adam Ward dead and posted video of it on social media. Andy Parker says he refuses to watch it.

Wednesday evening, police trucks were removing items from Flanagan's homes, and no one was answering the door at the residence.

The home is in Roanoke, a few blocks from the station for WDBJ-TV, where Flanagan once worked with the reporter and cameraman authorities say he killed Wednesday morning.

A reporter knocked on the door, hours after the shooting and after Flanagan died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No one answered. Several other neighbors also weren't home, and the parking lot was mostly empty.

The apartment complex is near the highway, has a swimming pool, tennis courts and fitness center.

Sheriff's personnel were parked outside Flanagan's apartment, and apartment personnel showed up to order a reporter to leave. Virginia State Police were taking the items from the home and placing them in trucks outside.

A former co-worker of the man who shot and killed a TV reporter and cameraman during a live news broadcast says that Vester Flanagan was "off-kilter" and that he thought news anchoring was about "acting."

Kimberly Moore Wilmoth worked with Flanagan in 1999 when he was at a Tallahassee TV station. She said Wednesday that "he didn't laugh at our jokes or at himself when he would make a mistake."

Wilmoth describes Flanagan as a loner who didn't socialize with other reporters. She says he got mad when co-workers made light of on-air mistakes. She recounted one story in which he filmed an elderly man trapped inside a car during a flood even though the man was calling out for help.

She says: "Instead of helping the man, he used the man as a prop."

Jeffrey A. Marks, general manager of WDBJ, called the shooting "a terrible crime against two fine journalists." Earlier in the day, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told WTOP that the suspected shooter was a disgruntled former employee of WDBJ.

On his Facebook page, Lynchburg reporter Andre Whitehead said Flanagan, whom he spoke with "several times," wanted to be an anchor. Whitehead also confirms previous ABC 7 News I-Team report that Flanagan filed a racial discrimination claim against his former employer WDBJ.

Wow! My heart is breaking! Vester Flanagan aka Bryce Williams worked for WDBJ7. He and I spoke several times as African American journalists. He spoke of going independent as we are. He wanted to be an anchor and filed a racial discrimination against WDBJ. We investigated his claim a couple years ago and sources call called his claims "unfounded!"


All Bedford County schools and several Centra facilities were on lockdown during the manhunt for Flanagan.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement about the shooting:

There are no words to express how heartbroken I am by the senseless tragedy in Moneta this morning. My deepest sympathies go out to the loved ones of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, as well as the entire WDBJ family. I ask everyone to join me in praying for Vicki Gardner who was seriously injured in this attack and all of the local authorities and first responders who are working to find the perpetrator of this horrific crime.

According to WDBJ's website, Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech. Parker just turned 24 and attended James Madison University, where she was the editor of the school's newspaper, The Breeze. She also had been an intern at WDBJ.

According to her Facebook page, Parker spent most of her life outside Martinsville, Virginia. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theater events in her spare time.

The WDBJ station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the southwest and central part of the state. The shopping mall where the incident happened is just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, about 25 miles southeast of Roanoke.

The family of Vester Flanagan said in a statement that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families:

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.

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