A former Roanoke, Virginia, reporter has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities say, after being hunted for the live broadcast killings of two former colleagues at WDBJ-TV earlier in the day. Vester Flanagan died at a Fairfax hospital in northern Virginia after being found — having already shot himself — by police who had been giving chase along Interstate 66 in Fauquier County.
WDBJ-TV in Roanoke reported August 26 Vester Flanagan, 41, a former employee of the station (and known as reporter Bryce Williams), was suspected of shooting and killing television reporter Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, a cameraman, videographer and photographer, during a live interview around 6:45 a.m. (EST) Wednesday morning at Smith Mountain Lake in western Virginia. Authorities believe Flanagan then fled in a rental vehicle, a Ford Mustang he had acquired at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, according to CNN. He later abandoned the Mustang for a Chevrolet Sonic, a vehicle he had rented earlier in the month. It was the Sonic that police attempted to stop later in the day.
Flanagan refused to stop, accelerated and soon lost control of his vehicle, running off the road and crashing the car. Virginia state troopers were the first on the scene, finding the man already suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to the Washington Post, Flanagan, after being transported to the hospital, was pronounced dead at 1:30 p.m. Both Alison Parker and Adam Ward were pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting at Smith Mountain Lake.
As WDBJ noted, a third victim at the crime scene, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was injured and underwent surgery at a local hospital. She is now recovering.
Fanklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said at the news conference that Vester Flanagan seemed to be “disturbed in some way.” He added: “It would appear things were spiraling out of control.”
Flanagan was fired by the Roanoke news station in 2013, according to WDBJ station manager. He had worked with the two victims in the past.
Authorities do not know if Parker and Ward even knew if Flanagan was there before they were shot. Flanagan himself is believed to have posted videos to social media that show him shooting the reporter and cameraman. The videos have since been removed but screenshots taken before the video show a gun pointed at Parker as she was interviewing Vicki Gardner. Parker had just asked her about tourism when she was shot.
Video footage from Adam Ward’s camera also captured moments of the violence. Parker is framed interviewing Gardner when shots rang out. Screams can also be heard. The shooting was captured before Ward dropped the camera.
ABC News has reported receiving a 23-page manifesto by a Bryce Williams explaining the WDBJ news crew shootings. Authorities are attempting to authenticate the manifesto to see if it was sent by Vester Flanagan. The author of the manifesto claims that the mass shooting of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17 prompted him to by a gun and carry out the shootings of his former colleagues.