Investigation continues into killing of TV crew

Published 11:45 am Friday, August 28, 2015

Editor’s note: The following is a press release from Franklin County Sheriff’s Office recapping the details of Wednesday’s shooting near Smith Mountain Lake.

At 6:43 a.m., Wednesday, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call concerning shots fired at the Bridgewater Plaza near Smith Mountain Lake. A WDBJ-TV news crew was conducting a live interview at the Plaza with Ms. Gardner when Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, of Roanoke, suddenly approached them and started shooting.

Two WDBJ-TV employees, Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, both of Roanoke, died at the scene. The woman they were interviewing, Vicki Gardner, 62, of Goodview, was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where she is being treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Flanagan then fled before deputies arrived on scene. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the Virginia State Police, immediately began a search operation to locate the suspect. Information gathered at the crime scene and in interviews shortly afterward lead investigators to identify Flanagan as a suspect.

Shortly before 11 a.m., Roanoke City Police located Flanagan’s 2009 Ford Mustang at the Roanoke Regional Airport. The Mustang has been recovered as evidence.

The investigation determined that Flanagan left the airport days earlier in a Chevrolet Sonic that he had rented earlier in the month.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement was able to locate the suspect as he traveled along Interstate 81.

It was shortly before 11:30 a.m., when Virginia State Police Trooper Pamela M. Neff was on patrol along Interstate 66 and her vehicle’s License Plate Reader alerted to the license plate of a silver Chevrolet Sonic traveling east on I-66. She followed behind for a short distance as additional troopers responded to assist and then activated her emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop.

The driver of the Sonic, Flanagan, refused to stop and sped away from the trooper. It was only a minute or two later that the Sonic ran off I-66 and into the median. When Trooper Neff approached the vehicle, she found Flanagan suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Flanagan was flown from the scene to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died at approximately 1:26 p.m. Wednesday.

Flanagan was a former employee of WDBJ-TV and on air went by Bryce Williams. Flanagan sent a lengthy, multi-page fax to a national news organization in New York about this incident. Investigators now have a copy of it to use in the course of this investigation.

The quick progress of this investigation and resolution were due to the dedicated and quick efforts of our public safety partners with the Virginia State Police, Franklin County Department of Public Safety, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, Rocky Mount Police, Roanoke County Police, Roanoke City Police, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

The investigation into the double homicide and shooting remains ongoing at this time.