Two local TV reporters were shot dead in the midst of a live broadcast in Virginia on Wednesday, the victims of an attack perpetrated by a disgruntled former colleague.
The shooting occurred around 6.45am local time, in Moneta, near Roanoke, and appeared to have been carefully orchestrated to construct a horrific spectacle that would play out live on TV.
Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were broadcasting a live interview with an official from the local chamber of commerce when there was the sudden sound of gunfire and screams. The camera tumbled to the ground, and producers at the local WDBJ7 news station cut off the broadcast, switching to a shocked-looking anchor in the studio.
It later emerged that both Parker and Ward died at the scene. The gunman also shot their interviewee, Vicki Gardner, the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake regional chamber of commerce. Gardner survived and is in stable condition after surgery.
The suspect, Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, was a former TV reporter at WDBJ7, who broadcast under the on-air name Bryce Williams. He died several hours after shooting himself.
By then Flanagan had posted on the internet his own video of the attack, apparently shot with a GoPro-style camera.
Flanagan, who is black, and claimed racially toned grievances against his former employer, also faxed a 23-page document to ABC News in which he made bizarre references to mass shootings.
He connected the atrocity in Roanoke to the recent shooting by a white supremacist at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15 …,” Flanagan wrote in the document,according to ABC News. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting.”
At a press conference later on Wednesday, Franklin County sheriff Bill Overton said it was too early to conclude any specific motives behind the killings and said investigators were in possession of the document faxed to ABC as well as a cascade of social media postings published by the suspect before and after the attack.