Friends, family mourn loss of slain VA reporter

A TV reporter and cameraman were shot to death on live television Wednesday by their former colleague, a journalist who also recorded himself carrying out the killings and then posted the video on social media.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward were killed.

Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, who appeared on WDBJ as Bryce Williams, had evidently been planning the attack for some time, authorities said. As he fled, he switched vehicles, picking up a rental car he had previously reserved at an airport. Troopers caught up with him hours later and hundreds of miles away after he fatally shot himself and ran off the road.

The news is shocking, but it’s an even bigger shock to those who know Parker personally.  Her parents graduated from Texas colleges and lived in Dallas years ago.

They made lasting friendships that continue to this day.

Randy Brooks has been friends with Parker’s family since the mid-70s.

He and Parker’s father were singing waiters at a Dallas theater club.

Brooks says the Parkers moved before Alison was born, but they kept in touch.

He was Facebook friends with Alison and her parents.

“There are no words,” said Brooks in a Facebook post. “Alison and her family are friends of a number of us in Dallas, where her parents used to live.”

Brooks learned of Alison's death on the radio.

“My first thought was, ‘I know a young reporter over there but surely not.’ Then I heard the name,” Brooks’ Facebook post went on to say. “I feel physically ill and my grief for her parents knows no limits.”

Brooks stayed with the family last December while visiting Virginia. He describes Alison as bubbly and full of energy, but poised and professional in front of the camera.

Now he worries about how her murder, a story that’s saturating the internet and social media, will add to her parents’ grief.

“Just to see it over and over again on television and recounting the details…these people are going to have this thrown back in their face for a long time to come,” said Brooks. “Healing is going to be really, really hard.”

As a father of two girls, Brooks takes Alison's death to heart.

“Thinking that I have a daughter that age, we have a network of friends who all have kids about the same age,” he said. “It could be any one of us, and so we all share that horrible, horrible grief.”

He says he’s struggling to find words that might offer even a little bit of comfort.

“I emailed them just to let them know how I felt and a lot of us have put notes on their Facebook pages for when they are able to look at them,” said Brooks. “But what do you say? What can you possibly say?”

Alison’s aunt and grandmother live the Denison and Sherman areas.

While asking for privacy, through social media, they have expressed their heartbreak, saying that their vivacious, ambitious, beautiful and immensely talented Alison was taken in a senseless way.

Alison’s cousins Kristin and Caitlin both live in Dallas and changed their Facebook profile pictures to honor Alison.

Alison’s aunt, Lisa Foster, who lives in Sherman, posted, "Our family Is completely devastated over the senseless shooting this morning that took the lives of my beautiful niece Alison and her coworker. Gun laws must change."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.