The Latest: Obama calls TV shooting heartbreaking

AP News
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Posted: Aug 26, 2015 10:56 PM
The Latest: Obama calls TV shooting heartbreaking

MONETA, Va. (AP) — The latest on the on-air killing of two TV station employees in Virginia (all times local):

8 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the fatal on-air shooting of two Virginia TV station employees is heartbreaking.

Obama says "it breaks my heart every time" he reads or hears about these kinds of incidents.

"What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism," he said.

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8:10

The ATF says the disgruntled former reporter who killed a television reporter and a cameraman legally purchased the gun.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Thomas Faison said Vester Lee Flanagan legally bought the gun used to kill Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They were doing a live broadcast Wednesday morning when they were shot to death.

Faison did not say where or when Flanagan bought the gun. In his purported manifesto faxed to ABC News, Flanagan said he decided to buy a gun after the Charleston church massacre.

The handgun can be seen in a video of the shooting that Flanagan posted on social media. Flanagan later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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7:55 p.m.

About 50 people are gathering at a vigil for the woman who survived the attack on a television reporter and cameraman.

The people were gathered at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta for Vicki Gardner, who survived the shooting. They sang hymns, read Bible verses and lit candles.

Several people said that Smith Mountain Lake is a tranquil community, and noted that Gardner has been one of the area's most tireless supporters. She is the executive director for the local chamber of commerce and was being interviewed at the time of the shooting.

Many people spoke of Gardner's cheerful personality, and how her position was the perfect fit for her.

Former neighbor Tandy Amburgey said Gardner always greeting people with a hug and would not want Smith Mountain Lake's reputation to be tarnished by the shooting.

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7:20 p.m.

The father of the television reporter who was slain on air says the family is "numb."

Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker, says he goes from shock to not believing to realizing that it happened and just crying his eyes out.

He says he was proud of her ethics as a journalist. He said that police in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she had her first full-time job would give her scoops because she showed herself to be trustworthy.

He said he watched all of her pieces online.

He said his ambitious daughter graduated from James Madison University in 3½ years. Her interests ranged from white-water kayaking to ballet.

"She excelled at everything she did," he said.

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7 p.m.

The property outside the studios of WDBJ-TV in Roanoke has turned into a tribute to slain reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward.

Dozens of balloons and flower arrangements dotted the property leading to the front door.

Reporters from multiple media outlets gathered for a late afternoon news conference at the station with WDBJ president and general manager Jeffrey Marks and news director Kelly Zuber.

Zuber says the station is setting up scholarships at the alma maters of Parker and Ward. Parker graduated from James Madison University and Ward went to Virginia Tech.

Marcia Burdick, senior vice president of broadcasting at WDBJ parent company Schurz Communications of South Bend, Indiana, says the National Association of Broadcasters has taken the lead in setting up a fund for the families of Parker and Ward.

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5:55 p.m.

The health insurer UnitedHealthcare says that the gunman in the fatal on-air shooting of two journalists worked as a call center employee in Virginia for more than a year, leaving in November 2014.

UnitedHealthcare spokesman Matt Burns said Wednesday that Vester Flanagan started work at the center in Roanoke, Virginia, in September 2013. He wouldn't describe Flanagan in general or say whether he had any problems at the call center.

WDBJ-TV has said Flanagan was fired from his reporting job there in 2013. Police say he shot reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward on a live broadcast Wednesday morning. He later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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5:35 p.m.

Police trucks are removing items from the apartment of the gunman in the fatal on-air shooting of two journalists.

The large apartment complex is in Roanoke, a few blocks from the station for WDBJ-TV, where Vester Flanagan once worked with the reporter and cameraman authorities say he killed Wednesday morning. Hours later, Flanagan died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A reporter knocked on the door Wednesday at midafternoon. No one answered. The area was quiet, with a few people there, including authorities and staff from the apartment complex. Two hours later, the area was bustling with police. On both visits, a reporter was asked to leave.

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

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4:05 p.m.

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."

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3:45 p.m.

The third victim in a shooting during a live TV broadcast is being described as a woman with a positive attitude who's full of energy.

Vicki Gardner is the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce. She was being interviewed Wednesday morning when gunfire broke out. The reporter and cameraman were killed, and Gardner was wounded. Officials say she's in stable condition.

Troy Keaton, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, says he was at the hospital with her for several hours after the shooting, along with her husband and one of her children. He says the family is remaining strong.

Keaton says Gardner emailed him before 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to let him know about the live television interview to promote the lake's 50th anniversary.

He says: "The fact she was there at 4:50 is sort of Vicki. And you know, not a lot of the other staffers would've been up for that. If she was here, she'd be saying 'Man, at least everybody gets to see our beautiful lake.'"

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3:25 p.m.

Authorities say the suspect in the on-air fatal shooting of two journalists was found by Virginia state troopers after he switched from his vehicle to a rental car he'd gotten earlier this month.

Officials say suspect Vester Flanagan was found around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on an interstate in Fauquier County with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They say he died about two hours later.

Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton says Flanagan fled the scene of the shooting, at a mall where the journalists were doing an interview, before deputies arrived. Shortly before 11 a.m., Roanoke police found his Ford Mustang at the city's airport. The Mustang is being treated as evidence.

Overton says Flanagan then left the airport in the Chevy Sonic he'd rented earlier in the month.

A Virginia state trooper located him driving on the interstate using license plate recognition equipment.

State Police Sgt. Rick Garletts says the trooper followed Flanagan until backup arrived, then turned on her flashing lights. The suspect tried to evade her but after a couple of minutes, he ran off the road into the median. That's where he was found with the gunshot wound.

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3 p.m.

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.

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.

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2:20 p.m.

A law enforcement official says the suspect in the on-air shooting of two TV station employees died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Franklin County Sheriff W.Q. "Bill" Overton Jr. gave that detail Wednesday during a news conference.

Officials say suspect Vester Flanagan died at 1:26 Wednesday at a hospital in northern Virginia. Authorities say the man killed his former co-workers — reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward — during a live broadcast for WDBJ-TV on Wednesday morning outside a shopping mall.

The station has said Flanagan went by Bryce Williams on the air. While he worked at the station, they say, he was angry and difficult to work with. He was fired.

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2:13 p.m.

A Virginia official says the suspect in the fatal shooting of two TV station employees during a live broadcast has died.

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran says Vester Flanagan died at 1:26 p.m. Wednesday.

Flanagan went by the name Bryce Williams on the air. He was a former employee at the station. The general manager says that he was known for being unhappy, angry and hard to work with, and that he was fired.

A reporter and a cameraman were fatally shot during a live interview outside a shopping mall Wednesday morning.

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2 p.m.

The fiancee of the cameraman killed during a live broadcast outside a Virginia shopping mall was marking her last day at the TV station before moving on to a job at another station.

WDBJ-TV general manager Jeffrey Marks said Wednesday was cameraman Adam Ward's fiancee, station producer Melissa Ott, was in the control room Wednesday morning as the shooting unfolded.

In an interview with CNN, Marks said: "It's hard to imagine, isn't it? She was moving on to a station in Charlotte. It was going to be a day of celebration."

Ward and reporter Alison Parker were killed. Parker also was dating a co-worker, anchor Chris Hurst. Hurst tweeted that Ward and Parker worked together every day. He says: "They were a team."

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1:30 p.m.

The general manager of the TV station where the suspect in an on-air shooting used to work says he doesn't know whether he wants the man to survive.

Officials have named Vester Flanagan as the suspect in the Wednesday incident. WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed. Police say they apprehended Flanagan hours later as he sped away from troopers on the highway, crashing his car. Police say they found him with a life-threatening gunshot wound.

WDBJ-TV general manager Jeffrey Marks says Flanagan was a former reporter at the station, with a reputation as an unhappy man who was difficult to work with. Marks says Flanagan was fired after "many incidents of anger." Flanagan went by Bryce Williams on the air.

On Wednesday afternoon, Marks said of the former employee: "I'm not really sure whether I want him to live or die."

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1 p.m.

The general manager of a TV station where two employees were fatally shot during a live broadcast describes the suspect as an unhappy, angry man who eventually was fired.

Jeffrey Marks of WDBJ-TV in Virginia talked briefly on air about Vester Flanagan— who went by Bryce Williams on the air — on Wednesday afternoon. Marks says Flanagan was hired as a reporter a few years ago after a while out of the TV news business.

Marks says the man had a reputation of being difficult to work with and being on the lookout for people to say things he could take offense to.

Marks says: "Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. He did not take that well."

Marks says that when Flanagan was fired, police had to escort him from the building.

Marks said that Flanagan alleged that other employees made racially-tinged comments to him and that he filed a complaint with the EEOC. But Marks says the allegations couldn't be corroborated. He says the claim was dismissed.

Marks says Flanagan remained in town after being fired, and every now and then, station employee ran into him.

WDBJ listed Bryce Williams as a reporter at the station on its website on Jan. 17, 2013. By Feb. 8 that same year, his name no longer appeared on the site.

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12:40 p.m.

The man suspected of killing a TV reporter and cameraman during a live broadcast sued a former employer over allegations of race discrimination in 2000.

Vester Flanagan, who also appeared on air under the pseudonym Bryce Williams, sued WTWC-TV in north Florida in March 2000. The lawsuit claimed that a producer called him a "monkey" in 1999 and that other black employees had been called the same name by other workers.

Flanagan also claimed that an unnamed white supervisor at the station said black people were lazy because they did not take advantage of scholarships to attend college.

The station generally denied the allegations of discrimination and said it had legitimate reasons for ending Flanagan's employment, including poor performance, misbehavior with regard to co-workers, refusal to follow directions, use of profanity and budgetary reasons.

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12:35 p.m.

Video of two TV station employees fatally shot on-air early Wednesday shows a fleeting image of a man in black pants and a blue top pointing a gun at the station's camera.

That image was part of an intense search that followed for a suspect police identified as 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II of Roanoke, who appeared on air at the TV station WDBJ in Virginia as Bryce Williams.

The shooting happened Wednesday morning outside a shopping center as a reporter interviewed an employee of the local chamber of commerce. The shooting played out during live TV on the broadcast from the station, WDBJ-TV, based in Roanoke and serving the southwest and central parts of Virginia.

Virginia State Police say they found the suspect about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Police say troopers had pursued him on the highway, but he sped away and crashed. Police say he was found with life-threatening injuries.

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12:30 p.m.

Virginia State Police say that as they were pursuing the suspect in an on-air fatal shooting, he ran off the road and crashed, and was found suffering from a gunshot wound.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Wednesday that the suspect is being treated for life-threatening injuries.

The suspect has been identified as 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II of Roanoke, who appeared on air at the TV station WDBJ in Virginia as Bryce Williams.

A reporter and cameraman from WDBJ-TV were killed in the incident Wednesday morning.

Police say that shortly before 11:30 a.m., they initiated a traffic stop on the suspect vehicle on Interstate 66. Police say the driver refused to stop and sped away from the trooper, but ran off the road and crashed. Police say the troopers approached and found the driver suffering from a gunshot wound, and he is being taken to a hospital.

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12:30 p.m.

A Twitter account under an apparent alias of a man suspected of killing a TV reporter and cameraman describes what he claims were workplace conflicts with the pair.

The suspect, 41-year-old Vester Flanagan, appeared on air at WDBJ in Virginia under the name Bryce Williams. The tweets posted just hours after the killings of 24-year-old Alison Parker and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward claim she made racist comments.

The tweets also say Williams filed a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and that she was still hired despite that report. The tweets also say Ward reported Williams to human resources after working with him one time. The nature of that complaint was not described.