The Franklin County, Virginia, sherriff said police are continuing a criminal and homicide investigation after two Roanoke journalists were fatally shot on-air during a television broadcast Wednesday morning.
The suspect in the shooting died in a hospital Wednesday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Franklin County Sherriff Bill Overton said.
Vester Lee Flanagan Jr., who reported as Bryce Williams for ABC WDBJ7 before being fired two years ago, allegedly shot reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, on Wednesday and posted a video of the incident to social media.
A third victim, interview subject Vicki Gardner, was reportedly taken to Carilion Clinic and underwent emergency surgery, a spokesperson from Carilion Clinic told WDBJ.
Gardner is in stable condition and is recovering at Carilion Clinic, Chris Turnbull, media spokesperson for Carilion Clinic, said.
Flanagan was flown to the Inova Fairfax Hospital from I-66 in Faquier County, where police located him, Overton said. Overton said police used a license plate reader tool to help identify Flanagan’s vehicle.
Virginia state police spotted the Chevrolet Sonic that Flanagan had rented earlier this month on Route 81, then followed him with flashing lights once backup had arrived, Overton said. Flanagan refused to stop, but a Virginia State Police officer caught up to him after his vehicle had run into a median on I-66, Overton said. Flanagan was found suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Turnbull noted that the two journalists had worked with the clinic on multiple broadcasts.
“(Parker and Ward) are good friends of the Carilion family,” Turnbull said.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) acknowledged the contributions of the various branches of law enforcement involved in the search for the man suspected of shooting the media staff.
“We appreciate the work of local, state and federal law enforcement in identifying and locating the suspect in today’s shootings, and taking him into custody,” Warner said. “This crime was senseless, and our thoughts are with the loved ones and friends of Alison, Adam, and the whole WDBJ staff. We’re also praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner.”
In a statement following the conclusion of the manhunt, Governor Terry McAuliffe said gun control is in the interest of public safety and is not a political matter.
“As we reflect with heavy hearts on this tragedy, it is appropriate to begin to ask questions about how we can prevent these senseless events in the future. Keeping guns out of the hands of people who would use them to harm our family, friends and loved ones is not a political issue; it is a matter of ensuring that more people can come home safely at the end of the day.”
Ward and Parker were covering Smith Mountain Lake’s 50th anniversary, interviewing Gardner when a gunman fired shots, WDBJ reported.
The alleged gunman appeared to be live-tweeting the events before an account appearing to belong to him was suspended. The account said Parker had said racist remarks and Ward had filed a complaint against him with human resources.
WDBJ7 contacted authorities after receiving a 23-page fax from Flanagan on Tuesday, the station said.
Overton said he could not comment on the fax or on the social media activity suspected to be connected to Flanagan.
Chris Hurst, a journalist for WBDJ, said he and Parker were in love. Hurst said on Facebook that they had just moved in together and that they wanted to get married.
NBC News reported that Flanagan sued a Tallahassee, Florida, station over alleged racial discrimination after being fired in 2000.
Overton said the investigation was “extremely emotional” for him.
“It has really stopped me in my tracks,” Overton said. “This morning, like many viewers, I was watching the live broadcast.”