Ward, a 27-year-old cameraman for local TV station WDBJ7, was shot dead alongside reporter Alison Parker at around 6:45 am during a live broadcast at the Bridgewater Plaza shopping mall in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, according to press reports. The gunman, identified by police as Vester Lee Flanagan II, but also known as Bryce Williams, shot Parker and Ward while recording on his own video camera, according to The New York Times.
Ward was filming an interview on the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake, a reservoir in the Roanoke region of Virginia that offers recreational activities. He was standing with Parker on a balcony at the mall while she interviewed Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, when Flanagan fired repeatedly, killing Parker and Ward, reports said. Gardner was wounded in the attack, according to the BBC.
While being pursued by police Flanagan wrote about the shooting on his Twitter account and uploaded the video of the shooting to his Facebook page, NBC News reported. A manifesto that ABC News said was sent to them from Flanagan spoke positively of mass murderers and said that as a black, gay man he had faced discrimination and sexual harassment.
Flanagan shot himself hours later after being cornered by the police on a highway and died at a local hospital a few hours later, according to press reports.
Flanagan had been dismissed from his role as a reporter at the station in February 2013 and had a history of conflict at work and rage allegedly fueled by racial grievances, according to CNN. He claimed staff mistreated him during his time there, according to press reports. According to the notice of termination, the station said Flanagan was dismissed for “unsatisfactory job performance and inability to work as a team member,” The Guardian reported.
The video recording, which appeared to be taken by a body camera worn by the gunman, showed Flanagan waiting until Parker and Ward had started a live broadcast before firing. The New York Times said his actions guaranteed the shooting would be seen, live or recorded, by thousands of viewers.
ABC News headquarters in New York City reported that two hours after the shooting a 23-page manifesto, allegedly from Flanagan, was faxed to them. The declaration pointed to a June 17, 2015 shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in which a white supremacist is accused of murdering nine black people in a Bible study group. ABC News reported that a man claiming to be Flanagan had contacted the network several times in recent weeks, saying he had a story for them but without disclosing further details about it.