Reporter, cameraman killed on air; police chasing suspect
A television reporter and cameraman were shot to death on the air during a live broadcast Wednesday morning in Virginia by a gunman the governor described as a disgruntled station employee who was being chased by police on a nearby highway.
Reporter Alison Parker was interviewing an economic development official around 6:45 a.m. about tourism on Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County, looking at the upcoming 50th anniversary festivities for Smith Mountain Lake. The station said in a tweet shortly before the shooting that Parker was looking into the planning process for a celebration.
She was working with cameraman Adam Ward, said Jeffrey A. Marks, general manager of WDBJ-TV.
Parker was smiling when suddenly at least eight shots were heard. Parker screams, runs and can be heard saying, “Oh my God.”
As the camera drops to the ground, it captures what appears to be a fleeting image of the shooter. The person is wearing black pants and a blue top and appears to be holding a handgun.
The station then switches back to a shot of an anchor back at the station, who appears shocked and says, “OK, not sure what happened there. We will of course let you know as soon as we find out what those sounds were from.”
During an appearance on WTOP-FM’s “Ask the Governor” on Wednesday morning, Governor Terry McAuliffe said that law enforcement personnel have a photo of the suspect and that he was known to the victims.
McAuliffe said the shooter was believed to be a disgruntled employee of the TV station and was being chased by police on Interstate 64. The governor said his arrest should be “imminent.”
“They’re right behind him,” McAuliffe said.
Federal law enforcement is assisting in the manhunt, and federal officials say they have no indication that the shooting was connected to terrorism.
Parker just turned 24 and attended James Madison University, where she was the editor of the school’s newspaper, The Breeze. She also had been an intern at WDBJ-TV.
According to her Facebook page, Parker spent most of her life outside Martinsville, Virginia. She was an avid kayaker and attended community theater events in her spare time.
Her boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, said they hadn’t shared their relationship publicly but “were very much in love.” He said they had just moved in together and wanted to get married. She had just finished a special package on child abuse for the station, he said. “I am numb,” he said. The station’s website says Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech. He was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, said WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan.
“Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked,” Morgan said. “He did live shots during our morning show for several years.”
The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the southwest and central part of the state. The shopping mall where the incident happened is just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Roanoke.
Police have told employees of the station to stay inside the building as long as the suspect is on the loose. About 50 people work there, Marks said.
“We have police protection,” Marks said.
This screenshot from WDBJ-TV7, in Roanoke, Virginia, shows reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward.