MONETA, Va. — One day after the on-air killings of reporter and a cameraman shocked millions across the country, the grieving staff at WDBJ-TV came together Thursday for an emotional broadcast of its “Mornin'” show.
At 6:45 a.m. — the time of the shooting that took the lives of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward — the station observed a moment of silence, showing the victim’s photos on the screens.
Anchor Kim McBroom, who was on the anchor desk during Wednesday’s shooting and tried to reassure viewers immediately after the attack was broadcast, joined hands with weatherman Leo Hirsbrunner and fellow anchor Steve Grant, who came in from sister station KYTV in Springfield, Missouri.
“Joining hands here on the desk. It’s the only way to do it,” she said just before the moment of silence.
The fatal shooting happened during a live TV interview as tens of thousands of viewers watched. Within hours, the carefully scripted carnage carried out by a disgruntled former colleague spread to millions of viewers gripped by what had transformed into a social media storm.
Shortly after the shooting, social media posts referencing the slain TV pair surfaced on an account under an on-air pseudonym used by the gunman — culminating with a first-person video of the ambush filmed by the shooter.
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.
“I don’t even know how to do weather on a day like this,” he said. McBroom told him: “Good job, partner. We’re going to get through this together.”
The morning broadcast include a series of news pieces on the shooting. One looked at the criminal investigation of gunman Vester Lee Flanagan II, the former WDBJ-TV reporter known to viewers by his on-air name Bryce Williams. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound hours after the shooting.
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 social media post made Wednesday through an account under the Bryce Williams name had a 56-second video clip. It shows Flanagan quietly approach Parker and Ward, gun in hand, as they conduct an interview. Ward’s camera was aimed at the mini-golf course nearby instead of the reporter. So the shooter waited — cursing Parker under his breath — for 20 seconds until the live television picture was back on the reporter. Then he fired eight shots without saying a word.
The attack seemed carefully planned. 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. The interview was done at a shopping center not yet open for the day at a remote lake in Moneta, some 25 miles away from WDBJ’s studios in Roanoke. The station promoted where the reporter would be, including a plug on Twitter just a half hour before the shooting.