Vester Flanagan, the suspect accused of fatally shooting two WDBJ Roanoke journalists Wednesday morning, has been confirmed dead by authorities after shooting himself.
He died at a hospital in Northern Virginia, according to Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton. Vester Flanagan died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound around 1:30 p.m., according to WDBJ7.com and multiple other sources.
Flanagan, described as a disgruntled former WDBJ reporter who worked under the name Bryce Williams, recorded himself shooting the journalists, reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward, then posted the video online. The killings took place around 6:46 a.m. while Parker was interviewing a source on air. The broadcast then goes back to a stunned anchor, Kimberly McBroom, back at the station. McBroom said she thought the sound of gunfire might have been a car backfiring or fireworks. “The last thing I thought I’d heard was gunshots,” she said.
WDBJ, a CBS affiliate, is a market leader and local news institution in Roanoke-Lynchburg, a station that’s had consistent ownership in a market with considerable ownership changes. Jeff Marks, station GM, called it “the eye of stability in a hurricane of change” in a past interview with B&C. Parent Schurz Communications prides itself on the enterprise journalism at the station.
Marci Burdick, group chief of the stations, said she met Parker on a station visit to Roanoke two weeks before. “She wanted feedback on how to be a better reporter and to talk about the career she had planned,” said Burdick via email. “She and Adam were the kind of young people we all hope for in this business; serious, focused, concerned and caring.”
Added Burdick: “I have no words to explain our sorrow."
Todd Schurz, Schurz CEO, issued a statement saying all of Schurz is “heartbroken at the tragic and senseless loss” of the two journalists. “At the time of their murders, they were involved in the most important aspect of journalism—telling the stories important to their local communities. Our focus now is to comfort their families and loved ones and to assist law enforcement in their investigation."
The murders have dominated the news, and social media. Tweeted Gabrielle Giffords, former Congress member and a victim of a shooting as well, “Horrified to hear that 2 young journalists were shot & killed doing the job they loved. Praying for the #WDBJ family.”
WDBJ anchor McBroom tweeted, “Heartbroken over the loss of two members of our @WDBJ7Mornin family...There are simply no words.”