The Latest on TV shooting: AG joins hundreds for vigil

AP News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2015 1:38 AM
The Latest on TV shooting: AG joins hundreds for vigil

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

9:15 p.m.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring joined several hundred Roanoke-area residents Thursday night at a candlelight vigil outside television station WDBJ to remember station employees Alison Parker and Adam Ward. The two were shot and killed Wednesday morning during a live broadcast.

Herring said he wanted to be there "to let all the folks in the community know that the entire commonwealth is thinking about them."

Herring, who has advocated gun control measures, said, "We need to quit thinking we can walk away from tragedies like this and that the problem is going to go away by itself."

The vigil was organized by a community group, Stop the Violence Star City.

Many of those who attended the vigil said they had been watching the station when the shooting occurred and that the tragedy hit close to home.

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8:50 p.m.

The husband of on-air shooting survivor Vicki Gardner says his wife lost a kidney and part of her colon, and faces three months of convalescence.

Tim Gardner said Thursday in a telephone interview his heart goes out to the families of Roanoke, Virginia, television reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. They were killed Wednesday by gunman Vester Flanagan as they interviewed Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Despite his sorrow, Tim Gardner says he's overjoyed that his wife of 40 years is alive. He says she was shot on the right side of her lower back while dropping to the ground in an attempt to avoid the bullets.

He said, "I would hate to have lost my partner of 40 years to a madman."

He says his wife is in good spirits, surrounded by family members at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

He says Vicki didn't hear any reaction from the WDBJ-TV journalists as Flanagan approached them. Flanagan had been fired from the station in 2013.

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6 p.m.

A memorial service has been scheduled for slain television cameraman Adam Ward.

Ward's obituary says a ceremony will be held Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Roanoke. On Monday, Ward's family will receive friends at Salem High School.

Ward was an avid Virginia Tech and Salem High School fan. The family is encouraging those who attend to wear the schools' colors.

Ward's obituary notes that he played football, often painting his chest in frigid weather at Virginia Tech games.

Ward was engaged to WDBJ-TV producer Melissa Ott. They planned to marry in July.

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5:30 p.m.

The owners of a shopping plaza where two journalists were fatally shot on air have replaced the floorboards in a breezeway where the shooting occurred.

The owners said at a brief news conference that businesses in Bridgewater Plaza will reopen Friday. They did not take questions.

Major Harry Clingenpeel of the Franklin County Sheriff's office confirmed that a spot with about a dozen new, pale-yellow boards was the place the shooting occurred.

No bullet holes or other signs of violence were apparent Thursday.

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5:10 p.m.

A woman who worked with Vester Flanagan at an insurance company's call center says she had a confrontation with him that frightened her enough to report it to the company.

Michelle Kibodeaux told The Associated Press on Thursday that while the two worked at UnitedHealthcare in Roanoke that Flanagan was loud and boisterous, with a booming laugh. Kibodeaux says she is quiet, and Flanagan often made comments about that.

"One day he was being quiet, and I told him, 'You're being quiet today. The shoe's on the other foot.' He said, 'You don't know me well enough to judge me.'"

Kibodeaux says she turned to walk away and Flanagan tried to grab her by the shoulder, but she ducked under his hand.

"He said, 'Don't you walk away from me. Don't you turn your back on me,'" she said.

Kibodeaux said she reported the encounter and a company official told her she was overreacting. After that, she steered clear of him.

Flanagan, a disgruntled former reporter, killed two of his ex-colleagues at a TV station.

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5 p.m.

The Virginia medical examiner's office says the man who fatally shot a TV news reporter and cameraman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Spokeswoman Nancy Bull says an autopsy on 41-year-old Vester Flanagan was conducted Thursday morning at the medical examiner's office in Manassas, Virginia. The autopsy confirmed his death was a suicide.

Flanagan shot himself as police were closing in on him Wednesday, about five hours after he fatally shot two of his former co-workers from a Roanoke TV station. He did not die right away. He was flown to a trauma center, where he was pronounced dead less than two hours later.

The medical examiner's office did not release any further information about his autopsy.

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4:50 p.m.

A former colleague of the man who fatally shot a television reporter and cameraman in Virginia says the man had two "blowups" that brought female co-workers to tears.

Dave Leval said Thursday that he worked with Vester Flanagan at WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1999 and 2000. He said two women who pointed out mistakes in Vester's reporting were so verbally abused that they feared for their lives. One woman's husband, a law enforcement officer, "threatened to come in and beat the stuffing out of the guy if he talked to her that way again," said Leval, now a sports reporter and anchor at KTVA in Anchorage, Alaska.

He said the women are shook up about the shooting deaths of WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward and don't want to talk to the media.

Vester was fired from the Florida station. He sued the station for racial discrimination, and the case was settled out of court.

"I can't think of anybody at our station who shed a tear when he left," Leval said.

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4 p.m.

Two WDBJ-TV workers held a small celebration for a co-worker before their own lives ended a few hours later.

WDBJ-TV producer Melissa Ott was engaged to cameraman Adam Ward, who was gunned down alongside reporter Alison Parker on Wednesday morning.

Ott's last day at work was Wednesday. She was taking a new job in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Ward was planning to follow her.

Before the two-hour newscast that started at 5 a.m., the shift started with Parker bringing balloons. Ward brought a floral arrangement and anchor Kim McBroom brought a cake, all for Ott's send off.

McBroom says before heading to do their live interview that aired at 6:45 a.m., Parker and Ward were able to commemorate the occasion.

"We were going to have some after and continue celebrating her day," McBroom aid.

The flowers and balloons remained in the newsroom Thursday.

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3:50 p.m.

A former classmate of slain WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker says they took classes together at James Madison University and bonded because they were the only members of their class to get journalism jobs out of college.

Jessica Albert fondly remembered how Parker used to ask her to pitch stories about Marines in Mississippi to her boss so that Parker could then use the footage in the Jacksonville, North Carolina, market. The market is home to the sprawling Camp Lejeune Marine base. Since both stations were ABC affiliates, they shared footage.

Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by former WDBJ reporter Vester Flanagan. Albert said Parker never mentioned any trouble with Flanagan to her.

"When I took this job, she recommended me. She did that for me, so she's definitely not a racist," said Albert, who is black.

Flanagan accused Parker on his Twitter account of being racist.

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3:15 p.m.

The disgruntled former reporter who killed a WDBJ-TV cameraman and another reporter had no confrontations with his ex-colleagues when he saw them around town in the 2 1/2 years after he was fired from the station.

Station General Manager Jeffrey Marks said at a news conference Thursday that employees reported seeing Vester Flanagan after he was fired in early 2013, but they were only sightings.

He says the station is still at a loss to figure out what happened to Flanagan after he was fired.

Marks spoke as dozens of station employees stood behind him, some of them holding hands. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot to death by Flanagan on Wednesday morning.

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3 p.m.

The disgruntled former reporter who killed two of his ex-colleagues wrote angry, rambling letters to a downtown Roanoke restaurant months before the attack.

Heather Fay, general manager at a Jack Brown's beer and burger restaurant, said she received a 15 to 20 page letter from Vester Flanagan three or four months ago.

In the letter, Flanagan criticized the restaurant staff for using the phrase "have a nice day" to departing customers instead of "thank you."

Fay says she noted Flanagan's name and a general description of his letter in her manager's notebook.

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2:45 p.m.

The woman who survived an on-air attack on a television reporter and cameraman is undergoing surgery to further repair damage from a gunshot wound to the back.

The Rev. Troy Keaton said Vicki Gardner's husband and daughter were with her, and another daughter was flying in from Portland, Oregon. Keaton is chairman of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, where Gardner works.

Gardner was listed in good condition at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. She was wounded in an attack that killed Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

Gardner was the chamber's first paid staff member when she took the job 13 years ago; now she oversees five other paid staffers.

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1:15 p.m.

The fiancee of the cameraman who was killed in an on-air attack says her life has been "flipped upside down."

Melissa Ott was engaged to WDBJ-TV cameraman Adam Ward, who was gunned down alongside reporter Alison Parker on Wednesday morning. Ott, a producer at the station, was in the control room when the shooting happened and saw it unfold.

Ott was slated to soon start work at WSOC-TV, the ABC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. She posted on her Facebook page that her plans, and her life, were now on hold.

"Starting new adventures with my fiance, new jobs, a new city. Getting married, having a family, buying a home. That's now taken. I'm not ok. And I won't be for a long time," she said.

She says she is grateful for the outpouring of love and support she has received.

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12:10 p.m.

The woman who survived an on-air shooting is doing better at a hospital a day after a disgruntled former reporter wounded her and killed a TV cameraman and a reporter.

Hannah Cline, a spokeswoman at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, said Vicki Gardner was in good condition. Gardner was being interviewed by Alison Parker when Vester Flanagan began firing. Cameraman Adam Ward was also killed in the attack.

Gardner is the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce. Parker and Ward were doing a story about the lake's 50th anniversary.

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12 p.m.

Police identified Vester Flanagan as a person of interest in the on-air shootings of three people based on a communication with a friend.

In seeking a search warrant for the car Flanagan was driving Wednesday, Virginia State Police had to give a magistrate in Fauquier (faw-KEER) County probable cause.

"Investigators identified Vestor Lee Flanagan II as a person of interested based on a text message sent to a friend making reference to having done something stupid," police wrote. Flanagan's first name is spelled several different ways in the document.

Police said they put out a lookout for Flanagan and the car was spotted in Fauquier County.

"When troopers attempted to stop the vehicle, the subject operating the vehicle failed to yield and was observed to place an object to his head," police wrote. Flanagan shot himself in the head and died at 1:26 p.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

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11:45 a.m.

An affidavit for a search warrant for the car of a man wanted in the on-air shootings of a local television reporter and videographer indicates the charges authorities were interested in pursuing against Vester Flanagan.

Virginia State Police wrote that Flanagan's offenses included capital murder, first- and second-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, reckless handling of a firearm and disregarding law enforcement. In addition to Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who died early Wednesday, Flanagan shot a third person who survived.

Police were granted the warrant to search Flanagan's car after he refused Wednesday to pull over in Fauquier (faw-KEER) County, then ran off the road and shot himself. He died about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at a trauma center.

Officers searched the car just before 5 p.m. Wednesday and reported their findings Thursday morning to Fauquier County Circuit Court.

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11:15 a.m.

The disgruntled former reporter who killed a WDBJ-TV cameraman and a reporter on air sued the station a month after he was fired in early 2013, claiming racial discrimination.

Court documents from the lawsuit say the station fired Vester Lee Flanagan for poor performance and an unending stream of conflicts with co-workers.

When Flanagan was fired, he refused to leave and the station called police. New director Dan Dennison wrote that as Flanagan was finally being escorted out, he placed a wooden cross in Dennison's hand and told him, "You'll need this."

The documents say cameraman Adam Ward recorded the incident and that Flanagan insults him and flips off the camera.

On Wednesday, Flanagan killed Ward and reporter Alison Parker.

In the suit, Flanagan, who is black, frequently mentions a watermelon that he saw at the station that he perceived as a racial slur.

In a letter to the judge, Flanagan writes, "How heartless can you be? My entire life was disrupted after moving clear across the country for a job only to have my dream turn into a nightmare. ... Your Honor, I am not the monster here."

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11 a.m.

The man wanted in the on-air shootings of a local television reporter and videographer was carrying extra license plates, a wig, sunglasses and a hat when police tried to pull over his rental car.

A search warrant return for the car driven by Vester Flanagan on Wednesday in Fauquier County shows an inventory of the contents of the silver Chevrolet Sonic sedan. Police obtained the warrant and searched the car after they tried to pull Flanagan over. He ran off the road and shot himself, dying a short time later at a hospital.

Flanagan was traveling with a Glock pistol with multiple magazines and ammunition. He carried a white iPhone, as well as letters, notes, cards and a to-do list. It's not clear what the to-do list said.

Police said they found a "briefcase w/3 license plates, wig, shawl, umbrella, sunglasses," as well as a black hat.

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9:40 a.m.

The boyfriend of a television reporter who was slain during an on-air interview says the two met at a Christmas party for WBDJ last year and hit it off. Their first date was New Year's Day.

Chris Hurst is an anchor at the station. He was dating Alison Parker, who was fatally shot along with her cameraman on Wednesday by a disgruntled former reporter at WBDJ-TV.

Hurst said outside the station Thursday that he made scrambled eggs and a smoothie for Parker early Wednesday before her shift. He also packed her lunch.

"I'd never done that before for any woman, for anyone, but I wanted to do it for Alison because I loved her so much and I just took so much joy in something so minor as cutting strawberries for her."

Hurst said they would text each other as they worked opposite shifts. She worked in the morning. He worked at night.

Her last message to him was "good night sweet boy."

"It's the last that I ever heard from her," Hurst said. "I saw it before I went to sleep. And then a few hours later I woke up to some calls telling me to come to the station."

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7:40 a.m.

As WDBJ-TV broadcasts its morning show a day after two of its journalists were killed, people are stopping by two colorful memorials outside.

WDBJ was in the middle of its "Mornin'" show on Thursday. During the same show one day earlier, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot by a former station employee who was fired in 2013.

Outside the station, the memorials are growing. They are full of balloons, flowers, candles and other tokens — even a Virginia Tech sweatshirt, because Ward was an enthusiastic fan.

During Thursday's "Mornin'" show, WDBJ did at least one interview outside near the memorials. A reporter visiting from a sister station in Missouri to help out spoke with Tim Gardner, husband of Vicki Gardner. She was wounded in the shooting as Parker interviewed her about local tourism. Tim Gardner told viewers that his wife is improving and is in fair condition.

Nearby, reporters and trucks from media outlets across the country lined up, doing their own live shots or working on stories about the shooting and the station. Police also kept watch as bystanders walked by or visited the memorials.

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6:45 a.m.

WDBJ-TV has observed a moment of silence on air for its two journalists who were killed in a shooting during a live interview.

The station marked the moment of silence at 6:45 a.m. Thursday. At that time Wednesday, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by a former employee of the Virginia TV station.

During the moment of silence, WDBJ showed photos of the two victims during the live broadcast of its "Mornin'" show.

Just before the moment of silence, anchor Kim McBroom joined hands with weatherman Leo Hirsbrunner and anchor Steve Grant, who came in from sister station KYTV in Springfield, Missouri, to help the grieving station.

She said: "Joining hands here on the desk. It's the only way to do it."

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5:40 a.m.

During a live morning broadcast on WDBJ-TV, an anchor has read a statement from the father of the reporter killed on air just a day earlier.

Anchor Kim McBroom read the statement Thursday during the Virginia station's "Mornin'" show. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward worked as a team for the show, and it was during a live segment Wednesday morning that they were fatally shot by a former WDBJ reporter.

The statement from Andy Parker says: "Our vivacious, ambitious, smart, engaging, hilarious, beautiful and immensely talented Alison was taken from the world. This is senseless, and our family is crushed."

The station displayed the text of the statement as McBroom read it.

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5:20 a.m.

WDBJ-TV is broadcasting live for its morning show a day after two of its employees were killed by a former reporter at the Virginia station.

During the newscast, in a weather report, Leo Hirsbrunner recalled how one of the victims, cameraman Adam Ward, would check in with him every morning about the weather before he went out on assignment.

Hirsbrunner said: "I don't even know how to do weather on a day like this." His voice trembled at times while he finished giving the temperatures around the Roanoke area.

As the segment ended, anchor Kim McBroom told him: "Good job, partner. We're going to get through this together."

McBroom also read a statement from Parker's family, her voice faltering as well.

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5:10 a.m.

WDBJ-TV started its 5 a.m. newscast with an image of the two victims killed a day earlier in an on-air shooting with the words "In Memory."

Anchor Kim McBroom said on Thursday morning, "We come to you with heavy hearts. Two of our own were shot during a live shot yesterday morning." She noted the outpouring of support that followed the deaths.

"We've had a lot of help," she added, before introducing Steve Grant, an anchor from a Missouri station who came to town to help.

The station then went into a series of news pieces on the shooting, including ones about the criminal investigation, church services and a vigil at the White House.

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4:55 a.m.

The news team at WDBJ-TV is regrouping for its first morning newscast a day after two of their own were killed.

Morning anchor Kim McBroom briefly fought through tears as she prepared for the 5 a.m. newscast Thursday. She was on the air Wednesday when reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot during a live interview.

On Thursday, McBroom was then joined on air by Steve Grant from sister station KYTV in Springfield, Missouri. While a few hugs were exchanged before the newscast, a dozen or so reporters and producers stayed focused on their work.

Senior Vice President of Broadcasting Marcia Burdick of parent-company Schurz Communications answered phones, greeted guests at the door, and did whatever she could to keep the newsroom moving.