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US diocese shocked at on-air shootings

04 September 2015


Hand in hand: members of the congregation at the RC Resurrection Catholic Church, in Moneta, Virginia, pray at a mass for the murdered journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward

Hand in hand: members of the congregation at the RC Resurrection Catholic Church, in Moneta, Virginia, pray at a mass for the murdered journalists Ali...

THE diocese of Southwestern Virginia has been “shocked and saddened” by the fatal shooting, live on air, of a TV reporter and cameraman, the Bishop, the Rt Revd Mark Allen Bourlakas, has said.

Vester Flanagan shot dead his former colleagues Alison Parker, a 24-year-old reporter, and Adam Ward, a 27-year-old cameraman, during the live filming of an interview in Moneta, Virginia, at 6.45 a.m. local time, on Thursday of last week.

He uploaded his film of the murders to Facebook, and sent a 23-page fax to ABC News, in which he said that “what sent me over the top was the church shooting”, referring to the murder of nine black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, in June (News, 19 June).

He was apprehended by the police four hours after the murders, but died in hospital after shooting himself.

While Mr Flanagan remained at large, Trinity Ecumenical Parish, in Moneta, was used as a “staging area” by emergency personnel, supported by the Pastor, the Revd Dr Philip A. Bouknight, and his congregation. In an online letter, Bishop Bourlakas urged clergy to pray “for Philip, for Trinity, for the Moneta community, and the families of all those impacted by this violence, and to be open and prepared to provide some pastoral care and/or assistance if I need to call on you”.

In his letter to ABC News, Mr Flanagan, who as a broadcaster used the name Bryce Williams, wrote: “Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15.

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow-point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

Jeffrey Marks, the general manager of the station for which both the killer and his victims had worked, WDBJ7, confirmed last week that Mr Flanagan had been dismissed nearly two years ago. He described him as “a difficult person for a lot of people to work with. . . Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him.”

President Obama said last week: “It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kinds of incidents.” He appealed to the American people to lobby for gun-law reform: “What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.”

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