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Trump Rising; Virginia Murder Investigation; Boyfriend Shares Memories of Alison Parker. Aired 16-16:15p ET

Aired August 27, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Making sense of the senseless, the execution on live TV.

I'm John Berman, and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. The killer who coldly murdered two journalists as they were on the air, we have new eye-raising details on his past, how he felt discriminated against, how he got his gun, how he sketched out every detail of the devious plan, and just into CNN, what police uncovered inside the killer's car.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My soul has been crushed.


BERMAN: Alison Parker's father, numb after losing his daughter, says he will give purpose to his pain. We will speak with Alison's boyfriend and anchor at the same TV station live right here on THE LEAD.

Our politics lead, trust, but verify, the Donald Trump version, imposing an inspection regime that allows complete unfettered access to his hair.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper.

Our national lead now, silence during a news broadcast normally means something went wrong, never more so than today. The moment of silence this morning at WDBJ does not even begin to express the sorrow at that station and in that community, not to mention the entire country.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward remembered this morning by their colleagues a day after a crazed former co-worker murdered them while they were on the air. They were interviewing this woman, Vicki Gardner, who was also shot. Today, the hospital upgraded her condition to good. That is wonderful news.

Now police are trying to piece together the big question, why? Why? Why did two people have to die over one man's twisted views?

CNN's Brian Todd is digging into that question for us. He joins us now live from Roanoke, Virginia.

And, Brian, we just learned a lot from the station's general manager. Tell us what he had to say.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, some very dramatic new details laid out by the station general manager, Jeff Marks, just a few moments ago detailing the very troubled history that Vester Flanagan had at this television station.

And Flanagan only worked here for less than a year. According to Jeff Marks, it was just a few months into his tenure here at WDBJ when signs of trouble started occurring. This is a timeline that Jeff Marks laid out just a few moments ago.


JEFF MARKS, GENERAL MANAGER, WDBJ: In January 2013, he accused one of the news photographers here of making trouble for him by questioning a decision to go on private property in pursuit of a story. At that point, in a meeting with a manager and H.R., he raised some concerns with H.R. of perceived unfairness. And those accusations or concerns were immediately investigated and found to be without merit.

Shortly after that, he confronted an anchor in the hallway, an anchor who was assigned by a producer to review one of his stories, and he was not happy about that. At that point, management made the determination that it was the appropriate time to separate him from the company.

On February 1 of 2013, two news managers and the H.R. manager notified Flanagan of the decision to terminate his employment. He reacted angrily, telling them that they would have to call the police because he was going to make a stink and it was going to be in the headlines.

The H.R. rep then called 911. Employees had been notified to give Flanagan space to clean out his desk. Once at his desk, Flanagan attempted to reach the corporate CEO, without success. At that point, the police arrived and escorted him from the building.

On the way out, he handed a wooden cross to the news director, who was at that time Dan Dennison, and he said, "You will need this." He also made a comment to Adam Ward, the news photographer we lost yesterday, as he left.


TODD: Jeff Marks also said that during a certain pertain at WDBJ, mr. Flanagan, Vester Flanagan was asked, was basically ordered to undergo some treatment in the employee assistance program, is what they called it.

Now, they specified that that program could be for a number of things. It could be for mental health, could be for some emotional problems, could be for financial problems, or other problems, but they made it very clear that they ordered Flanagan to undergo treatment in that program because of his anger issues and because of his behavior.

And they said he did comply with that order, but just not enough progress was seen and he was terminated in February of 2013, John.

BERMAN: And, Brian, you also spoke to an employee at the station who had some kind of a run-in with Flanagan?

TODD: That's right.

I spoke with Ryan Fuqua. He's currently a videotape editor at the station and was a photojournalist, a photographer here and worked with Vester Flanagan for a number of months.


He said that he was always kind of on edge when he worked with Flanagan, that he didn't want to make him angry, that he was quick to anger. He laid out one instance where they were doing a live shot, a live report in the 6:00 p.m. hour of a newscast, and something went wrong and Flanagan became so angry that he just threw down all his material and walked off into the woods for 20 minutes, and didn't come back.

That's the kind of behavior that he got used to with Vester Flanagan.

BERMAN: And apparently the kind of behavior a lot of people witnessed there.

Brian Todd, thank you so much.

These murders have been so hard on the tight-knit news family at WDBJ. Alison Parker and Adam Ward, they were not just co-workers, but they were friends, the loss so deeply felt by station employees, those employees put the morning show on again today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we will have some isolated storms returning for the upcoming weekend into next week, as temperatures get back to right around 90 degrees.

Guys, I just miss them so much today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do, too. I do, too, sweetheart. We're -- yes, we're in this together.


BERMAN: They are in it together.

Alison Parker, she talked about getting married. Her boyfriend and anchor at the station, Chris Hurst, joins me now.

Chris, thank you so much for being with us right now.


BERMAN: It's so hard to hear, I know, your colleagues mourn the loss of Alison like you are right now. We have been watching you over the last 24 hours with such a mixture of sympathy and awe, awe that you can keep talking about this. You say it's easy to keep talking about Alison, because you love talking about her.

As you face the second night now alone, is it getting harder?

HURST: Yes, it's getting harder. It's getting harder all the time.

Hearing Leo and Kim miss her so much and yet being such professionals to still go on the air is -- is inspiring to me. I have been able to be strong, as so many people have said, whatever that means, and Alison gave me a strength that I never even knew existed.

She thought that I was one of the strongest people she had ever known. Her parents are incredibly strong, and they have given me strength. And we have -- we have supported each other during this time. But it is growing ever more difficult. The more information that comes out is making this harder to cope with and understand, not easier. It's making it a lot harder.

BERMAN: Are you paying attention to the information? You know, so many people are looking at the investigation now and asking why.

HURST: I'm trying...

BERMAN: Go ahead.

HURST: I'm trying not to. I wish that I couldn't, but I'm a journalist. And I have a public presence, and I have been trying to keep the people who are concerned about Alison's family informed about how they're doing, and about the scholarship opportunities that have already been set up in her name at James Madison University and at the Patrick Henry Community College here in her hometown of Henry County.

And so when I go on Twitter, you start to see things that you maybe didn't want to see. You scroll through the mentions on your Twitter feed to find some source of strength from the people sending you condolences and warm wishes, and then, of course, you get the ones that are not that, and -- and apprise you of news that you did not want to see and the images you didn't want to see.

BERMAN: These are images, Chris, I think no one wanted to see. And I know you're a public person and you're trying to be strong, I think, for the community, but I think everyone knows you have just lost the love of your life. And I think everyone knows that you have to take a moment to grieve and take care of yourself.

I think everyone wants you to take care of yourself.

HURST: No, you're right, John. You're absolutely right.

And our two families have decided that this is the way that we have gone about grieving so far. It has been somewhat cathartic. This is the arena that Alison was most comfortable in and I am most comfortable in, and her father, who has been a politician and is running for office again. We're communicators. We like to talk. We like to have conversations.

And we didn't want to be quiet now, because being quiet would have been so unnatural to Alison and so unnatural to us. And we do love her so much, and there are so many photos and memories that I have of her in the nine months that we were together. And I just -- I want people to know that she was loved by many, many, many people in this area, and many people started their day with her. They got off to a good start for their day with her.


For me, my day always ended on a fine note, when I was able to kid her goodbye as she went off to work, when I came home from doing the 11:00 news, and then I went to bed.

BERMAN: That had to be the most special kiss over any 24-hour period of the day, and indeed of the week.

And indeed those nine months, Chris, you have called them the best nine months of your life, of both of your lives. How did she make them so great?

HURST: No doubt.

She -- we did things, you know? I think so many times in my life, I have taken relationships for granted. And I was just talking to a good friend of mine who I had not connected with in a couple of years just because Facebook almost does that job for us now. And you live vicariously through that, and check in and keep tabs. You know what people are doing, but you don't talk to them.

Alison was different. She was on Facebook all the time. She shared pictures and videos of her life with everyone on many different social media platforms and in person as well. But we did things, more so than I -- I have done more in the nine months I spent with her than I had doing in years prior, whether it was to go hiking, to go to museums, to go to weddings, to go to ball games, to spending time with her family and going out and doing things that she loved, which were to celebrate the arts, and to go to Shakespeare plays, and to go to musicals.

We didn't have much time during the week to be together, so we made sure that our weekends were jampacked full of things to do, and that's what gives me this book full of memories. And I have been showing it every single time. I can't let it out of my sight anymore, and, you know, John, I have never had anyone who has wanted to create pictures like this for me.

She -- we did things together and documented it. And because we were able to do that, I have this now with me forever. And if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have any of these pictures. I never would have taken these pictures with any other girl except her. And she brought it out of me. And I hope -- and the only thing

that I can do to keep her legacy alive every day is that, no matter who comes into my life in the future and who is in my life now, celebrate it, enjoy it, document it, and share it. And that's what she taught me. And it is so important to do. It is so important to do. And she brought it out of me.

BERMAN: Chris, all I can say is that you were so lucky to have had her, and she...

HURST: I was.

BERMAN: ... was so lucky to have had you.

Just listening to you describing the love that you had, holding that book, and I -- my heart breaks for you that this all happened, but at the same time, thank God you have that book to carry with you for the rest of your life.

HURST: I know. I know. I know.

BERMAN: You guys lived big.


BERMAN: You lived big. And that I think you will always have, but it makes what is happening today so much harder as well.

I now you have been saving up for an engagement ring. I have been there too, brother. It's not easy. You guys have been talking about plans for the future. Talk to me about that for a second.

HURST: We had just begun to start saving. I have no money down on an engagement ring. We have no money down on a house.

We moved in together at the beginning of the month, and had just started reducing our expenses. We had just decided to get rid of cable and go with another streaming service. We were paring down all of our expenses. We were -- she was watching our thermostat like a hawk. She liked it a little warmer. I liked it a little colder in the summertime.

BERMAN: It sounds like you're making sacrifices, but it's no sacrifice, Chris, as you and I both know, when you're doing it for a bigger cause.


HURST: No, no, I loved it. I loved it. I loved every single moment of it, because what we had, I think, is a relationship that is pure and one that is focused on effort.

And we were working on something. We had not yet begun to start saving. We were comparing or budgets. We were setting a budget. She was writing it down. And we were going to execute it. We were going to save money, and we were going to get a house and we were going to get a ring.

And we were not able to really even start that process. And I can tell you that, you know what? You need to do that process anyway, no matter if you have someone in your life or you don't have someone in your life. You need to start now doing the things that you need to do in order to do the things that you want to do. And with Alison, we did both. We worked hard at our relationship, and we had so much fun in it. We had so much fun. We had a blast every single day.

BERMAN: Chris, could I ask you to stick around for just a minute? I want to take a quick break, but I have so much more that I want to talk about. I want to talk about what you are going to put in that book going forward. Independent to talk about your colleagues at WDBJ, and how you're going to work through this with them and talk about the community.

So please stick around. We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper today.

[16:20:00] We're joined again by Chris Hurst, Alison Parker's boyfriend.

Chris is an anchor at WDBJ. Chris is talking about Alison, because he wants to talk about Alison, because that is the best way I think for you, Chris, to get thus these next days. We are so happy to hear your thoughts and your memories about this wonderful, wonderful person.

So thanks again for being with us.

I want to ask you about your colleagues at WDBJ. Watching what they have done today and yesterday has been remarkable. The moment of silence this morning, putting on, those doing the weather in Roanoke, in the Roanoke area, when -- you know, you look at this guy -- who cares what's in the sky on a day like today, but people need to know.

I just wonder what they're all going through at the station, Chris.

HURST: You know, we have another case of office violence and workplace violence and WDBJ7 is not unique in being a very close-knit family. Many workplaces have that, but ours was special, and you know from your experience in television news and many people outside know how different shifts are different little mini-families, whether it's first shift, third shift, overnight, you know? You grow to have a bond with your specific shift.

And for Kimberly McBroom and Leo Hirsbrunner to do what they have done the past two days are remarkable, but they are broken. All of the behind-the-scenes staff, the production staff, the editors, photographers, we are broken. Our station is owned by a great ownership, Schurz Communications,

out of South Bend, Indiana, and they jumped at the chance to have our sister station from Wichita, Kansas, come and help us out, because we needed the help.

I -- I think I probably could have gone back and done the news, but what -- what's the point? And they've got plenty of people to cover it, and I think my platform as a broadcaster and journalist is to share Alison's story, because I know her story. I know her story without attribution, I know it to be true, and I can share that. I have shared that with the station these past couple of days, and I'm trying to share it with as many different people as possible, so that everyone knows about the shining light that she was. And Adam was, too, you know? They were a --

BERMAN: Can we talk about Adam for a second here?


HURST: Sure.

BERMAN: Adam -- I've been watching these clips of Adam, and, you know, I do the same work you do. I've been looking at them like that's the kind of guy I would love to be on assignment with. I would love to go out for a day or two or three days and work on a story with Adam. He just seems like so much fun.

HURST: It's a grind, right? What we do is tough. And Adam always came in with a great attitude and worked well with Alison. When they did those morning live show hits, you know, they would do anything from what they were doing at the lake this week, at the lake, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the manmade lake, to dressing each other up for a ballet promotion for an upcoming show, to going to the local civic center to promote wrestling coming to town and having "New Day" come, not your "NEW DAY", but the wrestling crew of "New Day" come. They just had a ball together.

Every single day was different for Adam and Melissa. They thrived on it, and they enjoyed it. And Alison and Adam were able to meet everybody in the community from all walks of life because of their position as the morning reporter and the morning photographer. They were more well known, I would say, that is much pretty anyone else in our area, because they got to meet everybody, and meet somebody new nearly every single day.

"New Day", I have learn from talking to friends, you know, posted pictures that they took with Alison and Adam on the individual Twitter pages, those wrestling stars, those are the kinds of people that she would meet all the way down to your average Joe that's just trying to promote a tomato festival that was in Montgomery County, Virginia.

Alison played along when they wanted a tomato throwing contest at a guy throwing rotten tomatoes. That was the last clip she showed me that she really enjoyed doing. They had nearly every single day.

BERMAN: There are no small tomato festivals. Chris, I want to play you some sound now from Alison's father,

Andy, who's been talking to CNN.

[16:25:00] And he's talked about the role he now wants to play going forward as an advocate. Let me play that.


ANDY PARKER, FATHER OF SLAIN JOURNALIST ALISON PARKER: I know that the NRA, their position is going to be -- I can hear it now. They're going to say, gee, if they were carrying, this never would have happened. I've got news for you. If Alison or Adam had been carrying an AK-47 strapped around their waist, it wouldn't have made any difference. They couldn't have seen this thing coming.

So, you know, I don't want to hear that argument from the NRA, and you know that's going to happen.


BERMAN: I'm asking your thoughts in general. If you want to talk about guns, talk about guns. I don't want to force you to talk about guns, but what do you want your role to be, the media's role to be, society's role to be going forward? What do you want us to take from this? And how do you want us to treat this?

HURST: I support Andy as now a second father and someone that I love and he loves me back. He is very passionate about trying to make Alison's life not be in vain. Me merely celebrating her life and sharing her life I don't think achieves that goal. There seems 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, like Chattanooga, and like in Louisiana as well, where these things just don't occur anymore.

And as a journalist, I don't really feel comfortable sharing any personal views that I have on that issue, but I do think that 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? It's quite possible that the media could have both a positive and a negative effect on these issues.

But I think that the media could 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. I think that that is a question that cannot be answered easily, but, John, it can be answered. It can be answered when we are able to identify individuals who are becoming hateful through maybe even no fault of their own. I'm not saying that anyone caused it, but through no fault of their own, and 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 we just wait for another one to happen, and then we say, this is a huge issue, and then forget about it until another one happens. Why do we need to forget it, because if we don't forget, I think the incidents will lessen. I believe that.

BERMAN: Chris, thank you for helping us not forget. Please go fill that book. Fill that book for Alison, and fill that book for you. Thanks for being with us, and hang in there.

HURST: I have many, many more pictures that have yet to be printed out that we took together. This book will be filled. I will be on to the next book.

Thank you, John, for your time.

Everyone, please remember Alison and Adam as the loving, heartwarming individuals that they were, they were loved by many, and I hope now with people around the world being able to see their faces, that they're loved by many, many more now.

BERMAN: Chris Hurst, thank you so much.

All right. Our investigative team has been digging into the killer's history. We're just learn some stunning new details about several web sites he owned and what police found in his car after he shot himself. That's next.