The Latest on TV shooting: Station talks of killer’s firing

28 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

Vester Lee Flanagan, the crazed gunman who executed on live morning TV two local journalists who worked at his former station, was told before being fired by the station to seek help for possible mental health issues — then lingered in Roanoke, Va., for more than two years, living in a squalor amid publicity photos of himself, porn and sex toys.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.

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.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. 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.

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. He bought that camera, he practiced with it, he obtained the guns and so on — the following and stalking behavior, the identification of selective victims.” Miller said “classic injustice collectors” are people who feel they “aren’t making it and they’re blaming it on everybody else along the way.” “What was his injustice? Failure to comply will result in termination of employment.” It’s unclear if Williams did indeed follow up with Health Advocate, but he wasn’t terminated from WDBJ until February 2013. 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. He viewed himself as a guy who should be here, on network news, and unfortunately he found the most terrible way to get there and to be that lead story,” he said.

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. 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 … In the document, he called himself a gay black man who had been mistreated by people of all races, and said he bought the gun two days after nine black people were killed in a June 17 shooting at a Charleston church. This is not the last you’ve heard from me, this is something that is Alison’s legacy that I want to make happen.” Parker also spoke about the loss of his daughter in a statement. “Barbara, Drew, and I are numb, devastated and I find my grief unbearable,” he wrote of his family. “Alison was our bright, shining light and it was cruelly extinguished by yet another crazy person with a gun.” Parker and her family had always stayed close, he said. “She loved us dearly, and we talked to her every single day,” he wrote. “Not hearing her voice again crushes my soul.” On Thursday, three Mornin’ show anchors on WDBJ7, the station where the victims worked, grieved openly in the first such broadcast since their colleagues were murdered.

Cops who searched Flanagan’s car found a Glock pistol with multiple magazines and ammunition, a white iPhone, letters, notes, a to-do list and a briefcase that contained three license plates, a wig, shawl, umbrella, sunglasses and black hat, according to the Associated Press. 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.

Anchors Kim McBroom and Steve Grant – the latter stepping in from sister station KYTV in Springfield, Missouri – and weatherman Leo Hirsbrunner held hands in a moment of silence at 6.45am as photographs of their two colleagues were displayed. Flanagan, 41, who was fired from WDBJ-TV in 2013, was described by the station’s president and general manager, Jeffrey Marks, as an “unhappy man” and “difficult to work with,” always “looking out for people to say things he could take offense to.” “Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. 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. Someone who lived in Flanigan’s apartment complex told the Mirror that Flanagan was “rude and arrogant to everyone and anyone” and would sometimes throw cat feces at the dwellings of neighbors he was in disputes with. 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.

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. 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. Marks said Flanagan alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but that his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated. 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.

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. 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.

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. Miller said Wednesday’s incident was similar to the case of a former LAPD officer, accused of killing four people, who posted a manifesto on Facebook threatening colleagues whom he blamed for ending his career, CBS News reported. 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. 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.

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. During his forecast, Hirsbrunner’s voice trembled as he recalled how Ward would check in with him every morning about the weather before going out on assignment. “I don’t even know how to do weather on a day like this,” he 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.” A short video posted to YouTube shows what has been described as a “road rage” encounter with a man who appears to be Flanagan, dressed in a football jersey, camouflage pants and boots.

His family released a statement through a representative, expressing condolences for the victims’ families and asking for privacy: “Words cannot express the hurt that we feel,” it read in part. The statement from Andy Parker, Alison Parker’s father, says: “Our vivacious, ambitious, smart, engaging, hilarious, beautiful and immensely talented Alison was taken from the world.

When the person taking the video again insults Flanagan’s driving, Flanagan replies: “Okay, and you need to lose some weight, sir.” “It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward,” the statement said. “We are also praying for the recovery of Vicky Gardner.

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