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Mon Aug 26, 2019, 11:08 AM

4 Years Ago Today; Alison Parker and Adam Ward are murdered on live TV


Parker and Ward, from WDBJ7's Twitter account

News reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward were employees of CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia who were fatally shot on August 26, 2015 while conducting a live television interview near Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta. They were interviewing Vicki Gardner, executive director of the local chamber of commerce, when all three were attacked by a gunman. Parker, age 24, and Ward, age 27, died at the scene, while Gardner survived.

The gunman was 41 year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II, also known by the professional pseudonym of Bryce Williams, a former reporter at WDBJ. The station fired him for disruptive conduct in 2013. After a five-hour manhunt, Flanagan shot himself during a car chase with police officers and died later at a hospital.


Parker and Ward were conducting a live interview with Gardner at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta about upcoming events for the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake, located 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Roanoke. The shooting occurred at 6:46 a.m. Eastern Time in the middle of the segment, which was broadcast on WDBJ's morning news program Mornin'. Video of the incident showed Parker conducting the interview when at least eight gunshots were heard, followed by screams. Ward's camera fell to the ground, briefly capturing the image of Flanagan holding a Glock 19 9mm pistol.

WDBJ production master control operators then switched back to Mornin' anchor Kimberly McBroom at the station's news studio, seemingly confused by what had just happened. She later said that she believed that the noises could have been a car backfiring or shots being fired in the background.

Immediate aftermath
Parker and Ward died at the scene. Gardner was also shot, but she survived following surgery at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. According to the state medical examiner's office, Parker died from gunshot wounds to her head and chest, while Ward died from shots to his head and torso. Gardner was shot in the back after she curled into a fetal position in an attempt to play dead. A total of 15 shots were fired.

Staff in the WDBJ newsroom reviewed video of the incident from Ward's fallen camera and identified Flanagan as the likely gunman. They alerted general manager Jeffrey Marks, who passed the information to the county sheriff. Flanagan faxed ABC News at 8:23 a.m. and then phoned shortly after 10:00 a.m., making a confession. During the ensuing manhunt, authorities tracked Flanagan's cell phone to locate him.

Flanagan abandoned his Ford Mustang at the Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport and drove a rented Chevrolet Sonic north on I-81, then east on I-66. An automated license plate reader in a Virginia state trooper's car identified the rented Sonic at 11:20 a.m. The trooper called for backup and attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but Flanagan sped away. His car ran off the side of the road and struck an embankment near Markham after a pursuit of less than two miles. He was found inside the car with gunshot wounds which were apparently self-inflicted while he was driving. He was airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, where he was declared dead at 1:26 p.m.

Alison Bailey Parker (August 19, 1991 – August 26, 2015) grew up in Martinsville, Virginia and attended Patrick Henry Community College and James Madison University. She interned at WDBJ in 2012, worked as a general assignment news reporter at ABC affiliate WCTI-TV in New Bern, North Carolina from December 2012 until May 2014, and then was hired by WDBJ in 2014 as a correspondent for Mornin'.

Adam Laing Ward (May 10, 1988 – August 26, 2015) grew up in Salem, Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in communications and media studies in 2011. He had worked at the station since July 2011 as a videographer, as well as an occasional sports reporter.

Vicki Gardner is originally from Union Springs, New York and has been the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce since 2002. She underwent surgery in which her kidney and part of her colon were removed and was released from the hospital on September 8, 2015.



U.S. President Barack Obama said he was heartbroken over the murders. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said on Twitter that he was heartbroken over the shooting and reasserted his support for gun control. He later made calls for tougher gun laws in the state and blamed the state legislature for failing to pass a package of gun control measures he proposed earlier in January. His remarks drew criticism from Republicans, who said he was politicizing the tragedy. Virginia Senator Mark Warner gave his condolences to Parker and Ward's families, as well as WDBJ and the first responders involved.

In a series of interviews following the shooting, Alison Parker's father, Andy Parker, said he would become an advocate on the issue of gun violence prevention (comparing it to John Walsh's advocacy of crime prevention), as well as speak with politicians and news outlets to address issues of mental health and improving care for those with mental illnesses. Parker – who himself ran as a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2007, but was not elected – challenged politicians to enact legislation to strengthen laws to curb gun violence. His comments were made against pressure from the National Rifle Association (NRA), whom he criticized for preventing Senators and House Representatives from passing such legislation into law in the past. Parker criticized Virginia Senators Tim Kaine (who criticized the NRA for blocking efforts by the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. Congress to pass legislation to tighten background checks for gun purchases in April 2015) and Mark Warner (who voted in 2013 to expand background checks for gun purchases) for not directly contacting his family following the announcement that his daughter was one of the victims.

In a statement, staff members for Kaine, who was in Alaska on official business at the time of the shooting, responded to Parker's criticism explaining that Kaine had not reached out to the victims' families at the time "out of respect for their space and privacy during this difficult time of grieving" but plans to work with the families of Parker, Ward, and Gardner to help pass gun control legislation through Congress. The same reasoning was cited by a spokesperson for Warner on August 29, who said Warner did not reach out immediately to Andy Parker out of respect to the family's privacy "at a time of unimaginable grief" and had sent a message to Parker that afternoon.

Media response
In the immediate wake of the shooting, various media productions were either delayed or pulled from television outlets. The first-season finale of the TV series Mr. Robot was postponed one week from its originally scheduled air date (the day of the murders) because the episode included a scene with similarities to the incident. IFC delayed airing an episode of its satirical series Documentary Now! titled "Dronez", centering on two journalists who are killed on-camera as they track down an elusive Mexican drug cartel leader. Warner Bros. Records decided to pull a television commercial for Disturbed's album Immortalized, as it depicted an incident similar to the killings.

Writing about news coverage of the incident, ThinkProgress noted, "There isn’t broad consensus about how to handle this type of coverage." Users of Facebook and Twitter criticized the sites' autoplay option, which allowed opted-in viewers to see graphic images of the shooting without warning. The New York Post, the New York Daily News and British tabloids The Daily Mirror and The Sun were criticized for their decision to publish still frames from Flanagan's phone video of the murders on their front pages. Of the three U.S. major network evening newscasts on August 26, ABC World News Tonight did not show any part of Flanagan's video; a still frame from the video was broadcast on NBC Nightly News; and CBS Evening News showed a 25-second segment of the video. CNN initially aired the footage once every hour on the day of the shooting. Despite WDBJ's plea on Twitter not to "share or post the video," Everytown for Gun Safety eventually shared the broadcast video with a three-second discretionary warning, but the organization used neither Flanagan's video nor his name for video sharing.

Christine Courtois, chair of the American Psychological Association PTSD Guidelines Development Panel, warned that anyone watching the footage was likely to be upset, and some, particularly children and trauma victims, would be more susceptible than others, possibly leading to acute stress disorder. The Guardian journalist Catherine Bennett criticized the media's use of frame shots and footage as "helping Flanagan achieve his vanity script."

Ebony writer Jamilah Lemieux and Dexter Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the American mainstream media were too selective about rebroadcasting the footage of Parker and Ward's deaths to white audiences but have frequently showed content of many black people being killed.

Los Angeles Times writer Mary McNamara wrote that not watching the graphic footage to prevent the fulfillment of "a killer's wish is not just absurd[;] it's agreeing to adopt a murderer's way of thinking." She said the footage should be watched not for entertainment but to realize how brutal the murders were. The New York Daily News writer Linda Stasi said that media criticism of showing footage of the journalists' killings contradicted frequent media decisions to publish other violent content.

The Virginia State Police ordered BBC journalists to delete the station's copy of the video of Flanagan crashing his car during the police chase before he committed suicide.


Terribly sad and disturbing event. Yet, *STILL* no meaningful gun reform legislation has been passed...

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Reply 4 Years Ago Today; Alison Parker and Adam Ward are murdered on live TV (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Aug 26 OP
bronxiteforever Aug 26 #1

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Mon Aug 26, 2019, 11:11 AM

1. Kick and recommend.

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