TV Journalists Killed Live: Could It Have Been Prevented?

In what was perhaps the most shocking act of gun violence in recent memory, two TV journalists were shot and killed live on the air Wednesday morning. NBC Washington reports that reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward, both employees of WDBJ in Roanoke, a CBS affiliate, were fatally shot by an ex-coworker. That co-worker has been identified as Vester Lee Flanagan II.

Well before the two TV journalists were so tragically shot and killed, Flanagan (known to viewers as Bryce Williams) was reportedly known to be a highly disgruntled ex-employee. He was terminated from his position as a reporter back in February of 2013, and the aftermath of that encounter, was reportedly very heated. Station records reveal that Flanagan had to be escorted off of the premises at the time of his termination, and that fellow journalists and other employees had been warned to call 911 without delay if they saw him on the station’s property.

“You better call police because I’m going to make a big stink. This is not right.”

More than two years had passed between Flanagan’s termination and the horrific scene of two beloved TV journalists being brutally killed live on the air. The seemingly blatant warnings have left many to question why anyone had to be killed at all.

Flanagan shot himself following the shooting of the journalists and subsequent manhunt. He ultimately succumbed to his injuries. Because he killed himself, he will obviously never be held accountable in a court of law, nor will he be compelled to answer as to why he felt the need to take the lives of two promising young TV journalists.

Theories, some reportedly in the words of the killer himself, have nonetheless begun to surface.

CNN reports that the shooter meticulously planned the public murder of the TV journalists in response to the recent Charleston massacre. In what are believed to be his own words, he stated that he put down a deposit for a gun just two days after the shooting in South Carolina.

ABC is reported to have received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be “Bryce Williams” just two hours after the TV journalists were killed on Wednesday morning. The document included a manifesto that praised the Columbine and Virginia Tech shooters, as well as directly referencing the accused Charleston massacre mastermind.

“As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE (deleted)!!!”

Unfortunately, as so often happens, the killer is now getting precisely the attention and level of infamy he sought by taking the lives of these young journalists. It’s important to remember that this sensational news story came at the expense of two very real, vibrant lives. Two TV journalists were killed, both in their prime, and both completely senselessly.

According to Daily News, Adam Ward’s fiancée, Melissa Ott, received her wedding dress the very day she watched the shooting of the journalists live from the station’s control room. She had been his co-worker, and it was her last day at the station before leaving to pursue a job in North Carolina.

When we’re remembering this week’s horrific tragedy, where two TV journalists were senselessly killed, we need to focus on the victims and those they left behind. Don’t spend your energy giving the monster who perpetuated it the attention and notoriety he so desperately seemed to crave. Keep the victims in your thoughts, not their killer.

We can also do what we can to ensure these two journalists were not killed in vain. The most recent reports that have come out indicate that these journalists were killed by someone who’d raised red flags years ago. The loss of these lives should ideally serve as a catalyst for a discussion about mental health interventions and services. A discussion about keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. As we’ve seen so often in the aftermath of gun violence, it seems like there were clear signs that the perpetrator of these murders could be a risk to others. Especially, in this case, to the journalists and others he felt had wronged him.

Let’s make these two TV journalists killed the last innocent victims to lose their lives.

[Image Courtesy Jay Paul / Getty Images]