Father of Slain Virginia TV Reporter Urges Stricter Gun Laws

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Boyfriend of Slain Reporter Alison Parker: ‘We Fell Hard for Each Other. We Found Our Soul Mates’.

The boyfriend of Virginia shooting victim Alison Parker remains devastated after he awoke to news Wednesday that his girlfriend had been fatally shot during a live broadcast. As journalists at the Virginia TV station WDBJ7 grieved openly for two colleagues who were shot and killed by a disgruntled former employee, the father of one of the victims, reporter Alison Parker, called for reform to America’s laws on gun control.

Nationwide revulsion over the killing of two journalists on live television has prompted fresh calls for gun reform – but campaigners are as far as ever from cutting through the political gridlock that prevents it at many levels of US government.The family of on-air murderer Vester Lee Flanagan II apologized for his killings Wednesday, as others from the ex-reporter’s past showed their shock at how the well-spoken man known as “Little Vester” snapped. “It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness we express our deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward,” Amber Bowen, a representative for Flangan’s family, said in a statement to media in Vallejo, Calif. “We are praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner (the third shooting victim).MONETA, Va. (AP) — One day after the on-air killings of reporter and a cameraman, the grieving staff at WDBJ-TV came together Thursday for an emotional broadcast of its “Mornin'” show. Chris Hurst, an evening anchor at the WDBJ news station, where both he and Parker worked, has offered a poignant glimpse of their relationship, revealing that he had planned to marry Parker. “We wanted to save up money to get a house and get a ring,” he told the Today show on Thursday. She held hands with weatherman Leo Hirsbrunner and anchor Steve Grant. “As we approach that moment, we want to pause and reflect, and want to share with you once again what made these two so special, not just to us, but to all of our hometowns that WDBJ 7 serves.

Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims’ families and the WDBJ television station family.” Flanagan’s disturbed past emerged after he shot three people on live TV Wednesday morning, killing two of his former colleagues from the Roanoke news station WDBJ, before he posted his own video of the killings and fatally shot himself during a manhunt. Standing beside station general manager Jeff Marks and holding a photo album Parker had made for him, Hurst said Parker “made us take these pictures sometimes when I didn’t even want to smile, but she brought a smile out of me that I didn’t even know existed.” The couple had been dating for the past nine months after meeting at a station Christmas party last year. “We fell hard for each other,” he told NBC News. “We found our soul mates.” “We didn’t share this publicly, but [Alison] and I were very much in love,” he wrote on Facebook. “She was the most radiant woman I ever met,” he wrote on Twitter, “and for some reason she loved me back.” Hurst told the paper he came home from work around midnight on Tuesday and prepared scrambled eggs and a smoothie for Parker, who was about to get up for her morning shift. Vester Flanagan, seen here in middle school and high school yearbook photos, was remembered as “very polite” and a “shy gentleman” by those who knew him growing up. Vicki Gardner, the head of the Smith Mountain Lake chamber of commerce who was being interviewed and filmed by Parker and Ward, was wounded in the attack.

After the moment of silence was over, McBroom and the other WDBJ staffers were still holding hands. “This hurts us so much, as you can see,” she said. “But we will, with time – and the many blessings of our friends out there, all of you – heal from this.” Flanagan’s former co-workers at WDBJ and other stations remembered him as an impossible colleague known for angry outbursts and accusations of racism. Parker’s boyfriend appeared at the station where they both worked, telling his co-workers and viewers that he wants to tell his girlfriend’s story even as he grieves. On Wednesday night, Parker’s father, Andy Parker, told Fox News he would do “whatever it takes to get gun legislation … to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes in background checks and making sure crazy people don’t get guns”. “Mark my words,” Parker said. “I’m going to do something …

This can’t happen any more.” In the aftermath of Wednesday’s horrific shooting in the town of Moneta, near Roanoke, some gun reform activists expressed hope that the gruesome circumstances of the crime – which was broadcast live on TV and then posted to social media – might finally shock a numbed political class into action. Station anchor Chris Hurst, Parker’s boyfriend, recalled on air how Parker’s voice could light up a room with its kindness and joy, and how excited she was about her work, including an upcoming piece on hospice care. “Alison, what great things she could have done,” Hurst said, adding that he will take a brief break from his anchor role. Parker’s alma maters, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia – from which she graduated in 2012 – and Patrick Henry Community College, where she received an associate’s degree in 2009, have both dedicated scholarships in Parker’s memory. During his forecast Thursday morning, Hirsbrunner’s voice trembled as he recalled how Ward would check in with him every morning about the weather before going out on assignment. After a gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in that campus shooting, an aggressive campaign for tougher gun laws swept the state of Virginia – but much like efforts at the federal level, they remain stymied.

National reform efforts, first championed by Barack Obama and more recently by Democratic presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton, have focused on passing legislation to close loopholes in the system of background checks required to buy a gun. But officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms revealed on Thursday that Flanagan had passed a background check and bought the murder weapon used in Wednesday’s shooting, a Glock handgun, legally. “I have no indication that anything was done illegally or improperly, or any shortcuts were made,” an ATF spokesman, Tom Faison, told the Roanoke Times. “He could be as mentally ill as the day is long,” he added, “but unless someone has been legally adjudicated as such, they can purchase a firearm.” It remains unknown to what extent Flanagan struggled with mental illness, if at all; when he worked at WDBJ7, a supervisor told him he should seek help and he showed a pattern of anger-related problems that eventually contributed to his firing from the station. Even proposed legislation on enhancing background checks, which fell five senators short of the 60 needed to proceed in Congress two years ago, is struggling to gain momentum. Later in the morning news director Kelly Zuber called the station’s staff in for its regular morning meeting, and started handing out story assignments. “She told us that the best way to honor Alison and Adam was to keep reporting the news,” said Trevor Fair, a veteran cameraman. “It does hurt. One of its original sponsors, Republican Pat Toomey, recently played down reports that the bill could be reintroduced and did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Instead, the NRA has swung behind a much watered-down bill suggested by Texas Republican John Cornyn that would merely encourage states to send more information on mental illness to a national database. They seemed impossibly young and eager, as he drove them around Roanoke on small assignments. “I’d show them how to use the camera, how to ask questions,” he said. “They were good.” After her college internship, Parker started her career in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she worked for WCTI NewsChannel 12. The proposed legislation is opposed by many gun reform groups as an empty distraction, but a version of it has recently been supported by New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.

In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has also struggled to push reforms through the state legislature despite making gun safety laws a cornerstone of his legislative agenda. The governor, who is both a gun owner and vocal gun control advocate, on Wednesday vowed to renew his push for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Roanoke shooting. Ward had also been engaged to a colleague, producer Melissa Ott, who witnessed his death live from the control room, and was taken to a local hospital afterward. But the Republican-controlled state legislature in January blocked any new gun laws from clearing even a senate committee, choosing instead to advance bills that loosened certain restrictions on firearms. Flanagan was captured in a rental car he reserved at some point before the shootings; his own Mustang was found abandoned at the local airport, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said.

She went back into surgery Thursday afternoon, as doctors worked to repair damage. “I think she’s going to be okay,” said her daughter Erin Arnold. “My mom and dad have so many friends, it’s a whole community.” You don’t find that every day,” said Ashley Talley, who was assistant news director at WCTI-TV in New Bern, North Carolina, when she hired Parker right out of college. Flanagan alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated, Marks said. In court documents from a lawsuit Flanagan filed against the station, Dennison wrote that as Flanagan was finally being escorted out, he placed a wooden cross in Dennison’s hand and told him, “You’ll need this.” In a letter to the judge, Flanagan wrote of his firing, “How heartless can you be? He said he bought the gun two days after nine black people were killed in a June 17 shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church and wanted to use it to retaliate for what authorities called a racially motivated shooting.

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