Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward killed in attack
Washington - Arab Today
Two journalists for a local CBS affiliate in Virginia were shot dead Wednesday in a chilling live television broadcast by a man who once worked for the station -- and apparently filmed the incident before shooting himself.
The suspect -- Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, also known as Bryce Williams -- was taken into custody with "life-threatening injuries" stemming from a gunshot wound, and was transported to hospital, state police said.
Stunning video of the deadly on-air shooting -- apparently filmed by the assailant -- was posted on Twitter and Facebook. The footage, seen by AFP, was later taken down.
The killings, which sparked an intense manhunt and prompted a lockdown of local schools, once again highlighted fears about gun violence in America -- and a quick call for action from the White House.
"There are some common sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were fatally shot at close range early Wednesday while conducting an on-air interview for WDBJ in Roanoke, about 240 miles (385 kilometers) southwest of Washington.
"You send people into war zones and into dangerous situations, into riots and you worry that they're going to get hurt," WDBJ general manager Jeffrey Marks -- who earlier confirmed the deaths to viewers -- told CNN.
"You send somebody out to do a story on tourism, and this -- how can you ever expect something like this to happen?"
Marks said Parker and Ward were "both in love with other members of the team" at the station.
"I am numb," Parker's boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, said on Twitter.
"We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married."
- Shots heard, and screams -
Parker was talking to Vicki Gardner, head of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, on a balcony at the lakeside Bridgewater Resort in the town of Moneta near Roanoke when the attack occurred.
The pair were talking about tourism development for WDBJ's early-morning newscast when the gunman seemingly closed in from behind.
Several shots were heard, as well as screams, as Ward's camera fell to the floor, capturing a fuzzy and chilling glimpse of the gunman, dressed in dark clothing.
The station then cut away to a startled anchorwoman back in the studio.
Gardner was "seriously injured," said one of the US senators from Virginia, Tim Kaine.
Later, a video posted under the Twitter account @bryce_williams7, showed the shooter brandishing a weapon at Parker, who was interviewing Gardner and unaware of his presence.
Ward has his back to the apparent shooter and also apparently did not see him.
The shooter seems to briefly lower the camera.
Multiple shots are then heard, and screams. Parker runs away.
The shooter's hand is clearly visible. He appears to be wearing a blue checkered shirt.
None of the victims are seen wounded. There is no blood in the footage.
- 'Heartbroken' -
On her Facebook page, Parker -- whose birthday was just a week ago -- described herself as the "mornin' reporter" at WDBJ and a ballroom dancing enthusiast.
"She worked with Adam every day," said Hurst. "They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee."
Ward's fiancee, Melissa Ott, a producer at the TV station, was in the control room when the shooting occurred and watched it unfold, Marks told CNN.
Ott was working her last day at WDBJ before moving on to another station in another city, and looking forward to a farewell party with her colleagues.
"This was going to be a day of celebration for her time here and wishing her good luck," Marks said.
Marks said the gunman had worked for WDBJ and then about two years ago, managers "had to separate him from the company," adding that they knew he still lived in the area.
A few statements were posted on the unverified Twitter account @bryce_williams7 before the video of the shooting, including one that said: "Alison made racist comments" and another claiming Ward had reported Flanagan to human resources.
When asked about the tweets, Marks said: "He did make some accusations against people some time ago."
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe told Washington's WTOP all-news radio that the incident highlighted the need for tighter gun controls.
"There are too many guns in the hands of people who should not have guns," he said. "There is too much gun violence in the United States of America."
Media watchdog group Reporters without Borders (RSF) said initial reports seemed to indicate the reporters "were personally targeted in an act of revenge and not because of their jobs."
RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire called the killings an "unprecedented tragedy."
Marks said station staff were very emotional and planning a memorial gathering later Wednesday.
Of the shooter, an emotional Marks said: "If he dies, he took the coward's way out. (...) If he lives, he's due due process and this could be a mistake. I doubt it."