Slain TV reporter’s boyfriend asks for dialogue over gun violence


(CNN) — One day after reporter Alison Parker, 24, and her cameraman, Adam Ward, 27, were gunned down on live television near Roanoke, Virginia, Parker’s boyfriend said merely remembering their lives is not enough.

“There needs to be some action that is taken out of an event like this — out of an event like Sandy Hook, like Charleston, like Aurora, Colorado… where these things just don’t occur anymore,” Chris Hurst told CNN on Thursday, citing a litany of American gun violence.

“We need to have a substantive conversation on what is going on in America that is allowing evil to continue to crop up over love? Is it because we are in the media? And the attacker knew this was going to get a lot of play, and here we are again, another mushroom cloud of coverage over gun violence?”

On Wednesday, Vester Lee Flanagan II produced a real-time murder show that he choreographed in detail.

In a ranting note sent to ABC News before his death, Flanagan blamed his misery on black men and white women and said he was “somewhat racist against whites, blacks and Latinos.”

He said he admired the shooters who massacred students at Columbine High School and at Virginia Tech, which lies about 25 miles away from Roanoke. He decided to buy a gun days after the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting in June, he said.

Flanagan shot dead Parker and Ward while she was live on air on WDBJ via Ward’s camera, a video of the incident showed.

Flanagan, a former TV reporter himself who went by the pseudonym Bryce Williams, wounded Vicki Gardner, head of a local chamber of commerce, whom Parker was interviewing.

As Flanagan gunned them down with six or seven shots, viewers were subject to it live, as were colleagues in WDBJ’s control room. Ward’s fiancee was one of them, said general manager Jeff Marks.

Hurst works at the station as an anchor and had been dating Parker for nine months. They were already talking about marriage. He was saving for an engagement ring, he said.

“I think the media can have an even stronger effect to be positive if we can use this as a conversation in figuring out why we are allowing hate to creep into people’s hearts instead of fostering love,” he said at memorial for the victims.

“We need to ask why this is happening, and we need to keep the conversation going. We don’t want to keep it going because it’s tiresome and then, we just wait for another one to happen, and we say, ‘This is a huge issue,’ and then forget about it until another one happens… If we don’t forget, I think the incidents will lessen. I believe that.”

Parker’s father, Andy Parker, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday night that he will honor his daughter’s memory by lobbying for laws that will make it harder for the mentally ill to purchase firearms. It was not clear whether Flanagan had been diagnosed with a mental illness.

“After Sandy Hook, and the theater shootings, everybody thought, gosh this is terrible,” he said. “We have got to do something to keep people that are mentally disturbed, we got to keep them away from guns and having the ability to get guns.”

It’s up to the media, he said, to prevent the story from fading.

“That’s what the [National Rifle Association] is thinking right now,” Parker said. “The NRA is saying, it will go away. And, you know, they are the most powerful lobby in the country. And someone has got … to take them on. By God, I am going to do it.”

Parker was reluctant at first to speak to reporters about his daughter’s killing, but her career as a journalist changed his mind.

The first 24 hours after her death were filled with numbness, uncontrollable grief and anger, he said.

“She was kind and she was sweet and she touched everybody,” he said.

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