WCNC reporter Dan Yesenosky remembers Alison Parker

WCNC reporter Dan Yesenosky reflected on the memories of knowing slain television journalist Alison Parker.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Wednesday WCNC reporter Dan Yesenosky was on his way to a story for that day. He was driving down Interstate 85 in Charlotte and pulled over to the side of the highway after he received a text message from a friend.

"The text just said, 'Alison's been shot. We're not sure on her condition,'" said Yesenosky.

The shooting took place at about 6:45 a.m. ET at Smith Mountain Lake, about 35 miles from Roanoke. Killed were Alison Parker, 24, a WDBJ7 reporter, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Vicki Gardner, executive director of a local Chamber of Commerce, who was being interviewed, underwent emergency surgery at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and was stable condition, the hospital said.

Yesenosky worked with Alison in 2013 in Greenville, N.C.  They worked at competing television stations and they dated for about six months. 

"You don't believe. You think it's another Alison. Another reporter. Someone else. Someone you don't know," Yesenosky said.

A disgruntled former employee fatally shot Parker and Ward live TV, authorities said.

The shooting set off an intense manhunt that ended hours later when the suspect shot himself in a rented car as police closed in, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said. The suspect, Vester Flanagan, was rushed to a hospital in critical condition but later died, Overton said.

WDBJ7-TV General Manager Jeffrey Marks said Flanagan, 41, was a former employee who displayed "anger issues" before being fired in 2013.

Flanagan, who used the name Bryce Williams while working for WDBJ, posted video on his Facebook page showing the shooting from the perspective of the shooter.

Yesenosky said he watched the video on social media before it was removed.

"I just felt like I needed to," Yesenosky said. "It was partially just to see it was her."

The gun is visible in one of the videos and shows Alison Parker being shot.  

"It was horrible. It was literally just horrible. I didn't believe what I was watching. I didn't believe it was her. She loved this career. She loved that job, and I couldn't believe that that would be the way that she would go."

Flanagan, a former reporter for WDBJ7 who went by the name Bryce Williams on air, began tweeting at 11:09 a.m. Both the Twitter handle and Facebook page are created under the name Bryce Williams.

Flanagan tweeted that Parker made racist comments and that he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report. He also tweeted that Ward went to human resources about him "after working with me one time!!!"

Yesenosky said part of him wishes he never watched the video and he thinks down the road he'll regret it.

"Especially the ones he posted," Yesenosky said. "I could see that bothering me for a long time. But I just felt like I had to do it."

Yesenosky said Parker is a fun, energetic, outgoing person.  

"She loved TV. She loved news. She loved reporting," Yesenosky said. "She wanted to be a network reporter, to be the best there was-- to leave a legacy."

Yesenosky says the last time he spoke to Parker was in the fall when he was filling in on the NBC Charlotte morning show.

"I was texting her, 'I can't believe you do this every day because you wake up so early.'  And she was just making fun of me because I couldn't handle it," Yesenosky said.

Yesenosky sat down with WCNC Anchor Ben Thompson earlier Wednesday to talk about Alison on camera for a TV piece that aired at 5 p.m.  

"Please know that I volunteered to talk about her. It helped to do it."

It also helped Yesenosky to write about his feelings in a blog post for WCNC.com.

"Alison was shot this morning on live TV." They're words I hoped I'd never read and words I still can't believe I read. The feeling of losing a former girlfriend is one of shock, disbelief, sadness and sickness. Nausea is a good way to describe how I felt as I pulled the car over feeling like I'd throw up at any moment. The feeling of losing a friend, taken far too soon and far too young, is one of anger. The feeling of losing a fellow TV journalist is one of disappointment and disgust.

I have never met someone who loved working in television news as much as Alison Parker. She never took a single day or a single story for granted and was as passionate about this business as I could ever hope to be. She graduated from college at James Madison University's TV program in less than four years, had her first job in Jacksonville, N.C. for WCTI-TV when she had just turned 21 and was working for her hometown station (the one she grew up watching) before ever turning 23. She just celebrated her 24th birthday on August 19. Clearly, Alison was ahead of the curve and was ambitious in her career.

This is a devastating loss for the television news business and for me personally as someone who cared about her so much. I hope it gets easier, but to be perfectly honest, I can't predict how I'll feel.

Thoughts and prayers are with Alison's parents, her brother, her friends, JMU, Roanoke and her hometown of Martinsville, VA.

USA TODAY contributed to this report. 


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