On Wednesday morning, Virginia TV station WDBJ7 employees Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were shot and killed by a gunman while filming a local segment. A third person, Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce head Vicki Gardner, was also reported injured during the attack. She is in stable condition, according to the Roanoke Times.
A member of the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office identified the suspect as Vester Lee Flanagan, 41. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe described Flanagan as a "disgruntled" employee of the CBS affiliate. The suspect reportedly shot himself and has died of the self-inflicted wound.
As authorities try to make sense of the attack, those who knew Parker and Ward are grappling with grief.
Here's what we know about the victims so far.
Alison Parker, 24
According to the WDBJ7 website, Alison Parker used to intern at WDBJ7 before she became the station's Mornin' reporter. She graduated from James Madison University in 2012, where she studied journalism at the university's School of Media Arts and Design. She served as the News Editor for JMU's award-winning paper, The Breeze.
A post to Parker's alma mater's Facebook page said, "She had a passion for journalism and had a bright future. We're shocked and saddened by the news and circumstances of her death."
Parker was in a relationship with fellow WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst, who posted a series of tweets describing Parker. "I am numb," he wrote:
In a Facebook post, Hurst wrote of Parker:
I WILL share her story because it is one full of life, dreams, love and amazing journalism. She just finished working on an incredible special on child abuse and it was fantastic.
Hurst also shared a number of photos showing the couple together.
Parker's father said once he got word of the shooting, he feared she had been killed. "Initially, we had some hope, but I knew in my heart of heart… Alison would have called me immediately to say she was okay," Andy Parker told the Washington Post. He added, "My grief is unbearable. Is this real? Am I going to wake up? I am crying my eyes out. I don't know if there's anybody in this world or another father who could be more proud of their daughter."
Adam Ward, 27
Ward, 27, had been a camera man for WDBJ7 since 2011, CNN reports, the year he graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in communication. He was engaged to WDBJ producer Melissa Ott.
Virginia Tech associate vice president for university relations Larry Hincker said in a statement that "it is shocking and deeply saddening for this community to be again struck by gun violence," adding "we extend our deepest sympathies their families." Hincker's statement continues:
Robert Denton, professor and chair of the Department of Communication, knew Adam, taught him in classes, and since Denton was a guest broadcaster at WDBJ and worked with Adam at station, he offers this remembrance: “Adam was a delightful person. He worked hard – you could tell he loved what he was doing. He wasn’t afraid to pitch in and do whatever was necessary for the broadcast. He did whatever was needed with a smile and with grace. He was simply a very nice young man and very professional.”
Denton also worked with Parker. He described her as "a sweet and hardworking young newscaster."
Newsweek reporter Polly Mosendz posted the following statement from a friend of Ward to Twitter:
In a note, Ward's friend Solina Lewis described Ward as "an incredible person, a great journalist…he was a phenomenal person and that's what we lost."
WDBJ7 news reporter Jean Jadhon posted a photo of Ward and Ott in a Facebook post, where she wrote "this was supposed to be a day of celebration for Melissa- her last day here at WDBJ before she left for a job in Charlotte. They were both so excited for this new adventure in their life."
Katie Love, a reporter for NBC4 Today, posted photos in memory of Ward:
and described Parker as beautiful, inside and out:
The incident has shaken members of the broader journalism community. The Committee to Protect Journalists Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría spoke out about the shooting today, saying in a statement that, "We do not yet know the motive of the attack that killed Alison Parker and Adam Ward, but we do know that being a journalist is potentially dangerous anywhere in the world."
International Federation of Journalists president Jim Boumelha also issued a statement on the tragic event, saying: "This is a shock horror murder of two media staff which will appall the world journalists' community."
- Virginia TV reporter and photographer killed in on-air shooting
- Everything we know about alleged Virginia shooter Vester Lee Flanagan
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.