A former reporter who was named as the suspect in an on-air TV shooting this morning has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said today.
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Vester Lee Flanagan, who was known professionally as Bryce Williams, died at a Fairfax, Virginia, hospital at about 1:30 p.m., about seven hours after he allegedly shot two of his former colleagues.
The Virginia State Police reported that they spotted his vehicle at 11:30 a.m. and tried to pull him over, but he sped away before his car "ran off the road and crashed."
When troopers approached the vehicle, they "found the male driver suffering from a gunshot wound," and he was transported to a nearby hospital, state police said in a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, sometime between Tuesday night and this morning, ABC News received a fax from someone claiming to be Bryce Williams. It is a lengthy document: 23 pages. ABC News has turned it over to authorities.
Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were killed in the field during a live news segment in Moneta, Virginia, according to their station, WDBJ-TV, a CBS affiliate serving the Roanoke-Lynchburg television market.
A third person, Vicki Gardner, whom Parker was interviewing when she was injured in the shooting, is out of surgery and in stable condition, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital said.
WDBJ president and general manager Jeffrey A. Marks confirmed that Williams used to work at the station but was dismissed two years ago. Marks described him as "an unhappy man" who was dismissed after he "quickly became known for a reputation for being difficult to work with."
Marks said Williams was "looking out for people to say things that he would take offense too."
The shooting was reported at 6:45 a.m.
Franklin County school officials said three schools were on lockdown in the area of the shooting and that police officers were offering additional security.
The shooting itself took place at Bridgewater Plaza, a recreational facility with shops, restaurants, a mini golf course and boat rentals, where Parker and Ward were reporting on the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake.
Marks, the station president, went on the air this morning confirming the two deaths and noting that both victims were in relationships with other staffers at the station. Chris Hurst, who was dating Parker, posted tributes on his Twitter feed:
We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married.We just celebrated her 24th birthday— Chris Hurst (@chrishurstwdbj) August 26, 2015
She was the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back. She loved her family, her parents and her brother.— Chris Hurst (@chrishurstwdbj) August 26, 2015
Marks said it was his "very very sad duty" to report their deaths, and noted that the shooting is under investigation. "We have other members of the team with us today holding back tears, frankly," Marks said.
He said Parker was a graduate of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, while Ward was a graduate of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Marks and the anchors confirmed on air that Ward's fiancee was a morning producer at the station who was celebrating her last day at work today before starting a new job. Parker reportedly brought in balloons as part of the celebration before going out for the fatal live report.
Jay Webb, the news director at ABC affiliate station WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg (about two hours away) who had previously worked at WDBJ for several years, said he knew both victims. "Unthinkable," he told ABC News this morning, adding that he was especially close to Ward. "It’s a very hard time in our newsroom here this morning, as it is, I’m sure, across newsrooms across the country this morning."
He said he also knew Parker because she recently interned at his station before getting the job at WDBJ, which is owned by Schurz Communications of South Bend, Indiana.
"Alison was vibrant," he said. "Both extremely good people, will be missed."
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