Virginia TV reporter, photographer shot to death during live interview

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Alison Parker and Adam Ward

MONETA, Va. – A TV news reporter and her photographer were killed Wednesday morning after a gunman opened fire during their live TV report in Virginia, according to a tweet from WDBJ.

The shooting happened at Bridgewater Plaza, about 40 miles east of Roanoke, Virginia around 6:45 a.m. EST.

WDBJ7 reporter Allison Parker, 24, was conducting a live interview with her photographer Adam Ward, 27, when shots rang out.

Both Parker and Ward were killed by the gunman, who was believed to be a disgruntled employee of the television station. The woman being interviewed, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was shot in the back and was in surgery Wednesday morning.

The shooter was believed to be Vester L. Flanagan, and he was believed to be driving a gray 2009 Ford Mustang with license plate WZE-8846.

Parker was engaged to WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, and Ward was dating one of the station’s producers.

Between 30 and 40 police officers have joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the ATF,  and the FBI in the hunt for the shooter. Several schools in the area were locked down.

Parker was the morning reporter for the Roanoke station and a native of Virginia, having spent most of her life outside Martinsville. She started with WDBJ as an intern, her biography on the station’s website says.

She previously worked with another CNN affiliate, WCTI-TV, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

She was a graduate of James Madison University’s School of Media Arts and Design in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Chris Hurst, a reporter for the station, tweeted that he and Parker “were very much in love” and had just moved in together after dating nine months, “the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday.”

He continued, “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.”

Hurst described himself as “numb.”

Parker and Ward worked together every day, Hurst tweeted. “They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee,” he wrote.

“You know, you send people into war zones, you send people into dangerous situations and into riots, and you worry that they are going to get hurt. You send somebody out to do a story on tourism and — how can you expect something like this to happen?” Marks told CNN.

A local pastor, “a friend of the newsroom,” is at the station, consoling Parker’s and Ward’s co-workers, he said.

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