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Update: Alleged Va. shooter uses social media to post video of killings

Aug 27, 20154 mins
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Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all quickly suspend accounts, take down video; Shooter dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound at hospital

The man who allegedly shot and killed two journalists in Virginia while they were doing an on-air interview, posted video he took of the murders to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

All three social networks suspended the alleged shooter’s accounts and took down the videos.

Photographer Adam Ward and reporter Alison Parker, who both worked for WDBJ7, a local news station in Roanoke,Virginia, were shot and killed around 6:45 a.m. today.

Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, also was shot during the attack. She was transported to a local hospital and underwent surgery this morning.

As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, it was being reported that Gardner had survived the surgery.

The suspected shooter has been identified as Vester Lee Flanagan, who had worked at WDBJ7 as an on-air reporter. On air, Flanagan was known as Bryce Williams.

A manhunt for Flanagan ended this morning after he apparently shot himself as police approached his car. He was taken to a hospital where he died at 1:26 p.m., state police said.

Since the shooting took place while the TV crew was working on-air, much of it happened live on television. As Flanagan allegedly opened fire, Ward’s camera hit the ground but Parker could be heard screaming as she tried to flee.

However, that wasn’t the only video of the crime. Flanagan videotaped himself approaching the three people while they were doing their on-air interview. His video also shows him opening fire.

Later this morning he posted the video to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

He also reportedly used Twitter to post disparaging tweets about Ward and Parker, alleging that Ward reported him to HR after working with him once and accused Parker of making racist comments.

The tweets cannot be verified because Twitter suspended the @bryce_williams7 account.

“I was shocked, in the sense of not having thought about the emotional impact of this kind of near real-time communication,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “But in retrospect, I’m not surprised. It was inevitable. Some criminals, especially spree killers and hostage takers, want to tell the world about their grievances, or, in some cases, just to boast. Using current self-publishing technology is just the logical outcome.”

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, also said it was a matter of time for a high-profile crime to be broadcast through social media.

“Social media provides the quickest and broadest way to disseminate information, good and bad,” Moorhead added. “Unfortunately, I think this will turn into a future trend. This will particularly be true if the killer’s acts get a lot of attention, as they seem to be.”

Terrorist groups have aired video of beheadings and other vicious crimes on social media for some time, he said. What makes this incident stand out is that it occurred in the U.S. and was posted to social networks while the killer was on the run from police.

Sometime between Tuesday night and this morning, ABC News received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be Bryce Williams. ABC News has turned it over to authorities.

WDBJ7 Station manager Jeff Marks was live on air this morning and described Flanagan as someone who was “difficult to work with” and showed outbursts of “anger” at the station.

Marks said Flanagan was fired, though he did not say when that happened. “He did not take that well,” he added. “We had to call police to escort him from the building.”

Flanagan then filed a lawsuit against the station, according to Marks, but his interview was cut short before he could give any details of the lawsuit.