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Victim's Loved Ones Speaking Out; New York Tabloids Show Images from Killer; Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 27, 2015 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:25] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

They were murdered on live television and the killer celebrated his heartless savagery on social media. But this morning we want the spotlight to shine on the victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They were beloved in their Roanoke newsroom and embraced by their community, but they each also had their own special love story.

CNN's Chris Cuomo is in Roanoke, Virginia, this morning. He talked with Alison's boyfriend and her father earlier.

Tell us more, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Well, Carol, in these situations the big question is always why. And maybe the best way to have something come out of this that is positive is to remind us of what is lost and the value of a human life involved that maybe it moves an unsettled soul to think before they commit violence like what happened down here. And we've had beautiful opportunities to get to know who was lost and understand the value that these people held, even at this young age, 24-four-year-old Alison Parker, 27-year-old Adam Ward,

We heard from Alison's father and her boyfriend. They were planning to get married. The father wanted even in his pain to let people know what was missing now in his life and what the situation means to him. Here's some of what he had to say.


ANDY PARKER, FATHER OF ALISON PARKER: It's senseless that her life and Adam's life were taken by a crazy person with a gun. And you know, I -- if I have to be the John Walsh of gun control and -- look, I'm for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians that are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to come to grips and make -- have sensible laws so that crazy people can't get guns. It can't be that hard. And yet politicians from the local level to the state level to the national level, they sidestep the issue. They kick the can down the road.

This can't happen anymore because -- Alison was one of you guys. This has got to hit home for journalists. She would be texting me right now, saying, dad, what did you think of my story? You know, what did you think of it? And I'm never going to hear that again. She was so loved by all. And -- my heart is broken. But I want to try and do something that will change that and make her life -- will do something meaningful for her life so this doesn't happen to someone else again.

But she was a special young lady and I think people across the country and certainly around here realize that. We can at least take solace in the fact that she lived -- you know, she was only 24. She just turned 24 last week. And she had -- she packed in a great life in 24 years. She did a lot of things. And she was -- most of all, she was happy with what she was doing. She loved what she was doing. She loved her family. She loved Chris very much. And at least we know -- what I know from the law enforcement officials she didn't suffer.

And you know she led a happy life. But I just wish I could touch her soul right now because -- I'm sorry. I -- it's tough for me right now.


CUOMO: Of course it's tough for him right now, Carol. And you know, as you well know, and you handle these situations very delicately. You don't want to make something more difficult for a man, a parent in Andy's position, but he wanted the moment, he wanted to be able to express what was lost and why his daughter was special and how he believes things need to change. And he deserves that opportunity, especially now.

And her boyfriend, Chris Hurst, is an anchor here at WDBJ, what the community is calling their news family. And he wants people to know that Alison was only 24, but she was so much more than her age. She had lived so much. And she had given him a love for nine months that most people never have in their lives.

Listen to what he said.


CHRIS HURST, ALISON PARKER'S BOYFRIEND: Our love story, I think, is just like Adam and Melissa's.

[09:05:01] And real quick, Adam was the best boyfriend and fiance I could ever imagine. Way better than me. His spontaneity to show his love, going the extra mile to prove his love to Melissa was something that I have never seen before. And the way he proposed to her was elaborate and well executed. And they were going to be a wonderful married couple.

CUOMO: What did he do?

HURST: He just -- he said it up so that she was exactly where they wanted to be, got down on one knee, and always just made Melissa feel special. And those were two people just like myself who maybe never thought that they would get that kind of love and we got it.

And for me, you know, it was at the station Christmas party last year, the way she looked. I mean, Chris, you've seen her on television.

CUOMO: Beautiful. Beautiful.

HURST: Stunning.

CUOMO: And the energy that came out of her also.

HURST: And that, too. Inside and out. And so I saw her at the Christmas party wearing this gold sequined dress. And everyone always said she kind of looked a little bit like Taylor Swift and she had this beautiful red lipstick on. And I just stood in the corner, I said, Chris, you've got to do something or you're a fool. And something came over me. And I went up and made my move and asked her out a couple of days later. And we had our first date on January 1st.

CUOMO: And you said you felt tremendously lucky. You couldn't believe that she returned the affection.

HURST: Yes. Yes. Yes. I'm not one to -- I'm not one to really put myself out there for dating. And, you know, it's a tough job that we have. And you don't get a lot of free time. People in the business tend to know each other and tend to get each other and we got each other. And -- but something came over me and I decided that I had to go for it. And we were both so lucky that that occurred because she told me and her parents told me last night that I was the love of my life and she's the love of my life.


CUOMO: You know, these situations, we see them so often and everyone has its own special qualities and all of them share the same horrible questions.

For all the unknowns that remain, Carol, and we know that -- we hope for a better discussion than what we've had in the past. But you never know. What is known is that this young woman and this young man were very special people to those in their lives and those in this community that they touched.

COSTELLO: You know, we remember victims like this in each and every incident that happens where gun violence is to blame. And nothing is ever done and nothing ever changes because people hide behind their old tired arguments.

And you know, I'll just say it, Chris, it makes me angry. It just makes me angry.

CUOMO: I think that's understandable. I think it's an emotion that's shared here on the ground and in the community. And you know, and yet this woman came up to me yesterday, and she's been here her whole life. And what she spoke about was the anger, that there's just too much of it and not the righteous one that you're discussing, but how people treat one another and how they voice their own problems and how they deal with what's going on inside of them and how we treat each other.

And yes, guns, yes, mental illness. But I think at the root of it all is how we treat each other and how we view each other. And that's why when you tell a story about what is lost and how beautiful these people were and how much they had to offer, you hope that if nothing else that may move an unsettled soul to think before they decide to hurt others.

COSTELLO: I wish I could believe you, but I don't think so because the answer to rage in this country has become, hey, you disrespected me, I'm just going to pull a gun and I'll cull my rage that way. And you will be the loser for sure. And we have to get rid of that. We don't have respect for guns anymore.

CUOMO: Look, I hear you. You're making smart points. We know what the status of the debate is. We know where the politicians are. The questions is, where are the people? What do they really want?

This country, for all the talk about money and politics and corruption, has always ultimately been what the people want to make it. And these situations raise the same questions every time. And you cover them in the hope of provoking that conversation. But where it leads often winds up making the hope for change just that, only hope. And you just hope that it gets better, that the conversation is had.

But more than anything else, we want the people who remember who was lost here and to remember what it means to their loved ones.

COSTELLO: All right. Chris Cuomo, thanks. We'll get back to you. I appreciate it.

To the tabloids here in New York, the "Daily News" and the "Post," they're facing public outrage today for their shocking front pages. I'm not going to show you the papers, I have them right here. But on the cover of both papers are freeze frames of the killings, taken from the camera the killer wore and later posted on social media.

Here's a sampling of some angry tweets. "Just went to get coffee and saw the front covers of the 'New York Post' and 'New York Daily News.' Can't believe their front covers." And then in all caps, "Disrespectful."

[09:10:03] Another tweet, "The entire 'Daily News' editorial team should be fired." And this, "Almost tweeted out the appalling 'Daily News' cover before realizing that's exactly what they are trying to get you to do."

And frankly, isn't this what the killer wanted? This heartless attack, his self-pity and suicide note, his blinding anger and hatred?

With me now, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers and Mary Ellen O'Toole, former FBI profiler.

Welcome to both of you. I'd like to start with you, Mr. Mayor, though. I want to get your reaction to these tabloids showing these freeze frames of the killings.

MAYOR DAVID BOWERS (D), ROANOKE, VIRGINIA: I haven't seen them. But they remind me of Matthew Brady, the civil war photographer who took pictures of the battle scenes during the civil war. They were appalling at the time. People were -- they were provocative at the time but they helped the American people begin to understand the horrors of war.

I mean, at some point when are we going to understand the horrors of gun violence in our country? How many more massacres do we have to have at Virginia Tech or church shootings in Charleston or movie theater shootings in Lafayette, Louisiana, or shooting of innocent journalists here in Roanoke before the public cries out and says what it is that they want us to do?

We just haven't reached a consensus on this in America in my opinion.

COSTELLO: It is interesting what you say about these tabloid covers, though, Mr. Mayor. You say in some way maybe they can show the horror of gun violence and maybe something will be done?

BOWERS: I guess. Again, I would say that was the effect that Matthew Brady had 150 years ago on the American public. And so they're horrible pictures, I would guess. I've not seen them. The shooting itself was live on television here in Roanoke. I didn't see it. I saw the film afterwards. It's horrible and it's sickening and maybe it will cause us to think about the horror of gun violence in our country and how it seems to be more and more prevalent.

And innocent people, innocent people are dying. I knew Alison Parker and I knew of Adam Ward. I didn't deal with them as closely. She was bright and intelligent and she just had a great energy in the mornings here at WDBJ. And I think everybody did love her and the community is mourning the loss that these two Roanokers today.

COSTELLO: So this killer, he was never deemed mentally I'll, so he was easily able to buy a gun, right?


BOWERS: I don't know --

COSTELLO: Could he just --

BOWERS: I don't know the --

COSTELLO: But he did. He bought a gun.

BOWERS: Yes. The circumstances of that.

COSTELLO: Well, these are the circumstances that CNN uncovered. So he was easily able to buy this gun.

So, Mr. Mayor, what is the answer in your mind to stemming gun violence? Do we need gun control laws? Do we not -- do we need more guns? I don't know.

BOWERS: I think people ought to go back to church. That's what I think people ought to do. I think in America people ought to go back to church. You know, I have a saying in -- on a plaque in my house. When life gets to be too much for you, just kneel. And that's what I believe. I'm -- I believe people ought to pray more. I think we ought to pray for these -- we are praying for these poor souls now. We're praying for these families. We're praying for these WDBJ employees family.

We're worried about things in our community like these things happening. And one of the answers is first to pray, go to church, do positive things instead of all the craziness that we seem to be doing in our society with drugs and domestic violence and drinking and all the other things that just seem to be awful in our society now.

COSTELLO: I also believe --


COSTELLO: I also believe in the power of prayer, Mr. Mayor. I also believe in the power of prayer, and I believe deeply in God. But I know that simply praying won't solve the violence problem in our nation.

BOWERS: Ma'am, I would say to you that we haven't reached a consensus on this in our country. And so there has to be a lot of thought, a lot of prayer, a lot of consensus building. And to my way of thinking, that's the very first thing we've got to do.

COSTELLO: All right. Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor, for joining me. I so appreciate it.

Now I'd like to focus on you, Mary Ellen. And thanks for standing by and waiting. I appreciate it. Because I really want to do -- I really want to find some answer to this, if possible. There were many signs in this young man's -- well, he wasn't young, he was 41 years old. There was many signs in this man's past that he exhibited volatile behavior, that there was something unbalanced about him. But as far as we know, he never got help.

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: Right. That's a problem. But as I am listening to all of this information come out about him, there are other people clearly in the United States who are evolving down the same road that he did yesterday. *


[09:15:02] But as I am listening to all of this information come out about him, there are other people clearly in the United States who are evolving down the same road that he did yesterday. And the one thing that law enforcement really needs to do in working with companies, in working with schools and universities is this -- our mental health system is broken. Got that. The gun control argument is at a stalemate. Got that.

But when you do have someone that you're firing or you're expelling from school and they manifest these kinds of behaviors, you cannot just boot them out the door and hope your problem is gone. We -- there really has to be some way to monitor them, which means that you may have to pay an off duty officer, a private investigator for the next five years to go by and every once in a while, every couple of weeks check on them and how you're doing what's going on.


O'TOOLE: Maybe for the --

COSTELLO: Because this man was fired from that television station two years ago.

O'TOOLE: I understand that. But when you have someone as volatile as this, it's very extreme. Most people you fire, they're upset, they're sad, and they leave. When you have someone as volatile as this one, they have to be monitored. And until we can fix the mental health system, and do something with the guns, those are the recommendations we made in the FBI to employers, to government, to schools, you have to monitor this person. And that just means going by and checking on them.

COSTELLO: I'm just saying, so you were putting the onus on employers and to monitor someone for five years can be an expensive proposition. How is that even possible?

O'TOOLE: Well, people do it, though. It's not a full-time job. But clearly you're very sensitive to this. We don't have a mental health system where you can take somebody and put them away. And that will probably never happen anyway.

So, what we've found works the best is to just stay in touch with the person, see if they're getting worse, if their hatred, if their attitudes are deteriorating and if they're talking about buying guns and in fact they are buying guns, because from the information right now, he was legal in buying that -- purchasing that gun. So, short of everything that else that's not working, we can't just sit and not do anything.

I'm just saying we would make that recommendation in the FBI, not all the time and not really frequently. But every now and then if somebody was that concerning to us, we would tell that company -- you have to do something to monitor them.

COSTELLO: Mary Ellen O'Toole, thank you so much for your insight. I appreciate it.

O'TOOLE: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: WDBJ news team has shown so much grace in covering this difficult story. Just moments ago, the morning team held a moment of silence for their fallen colleagues and we will too.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was yesterday around this time that we went live to Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward. They were out at the field. That story was like so many others that they did all the time, reporting on our home town. They were at Bridgewater Plaza near Smith Mountain Lake to report on a happy event, the 50th anniversary of the lake, just a feature.

And it was during a conversation with Vicki Gardner about another reason why we love living here when the peacefulness of our community was shattered. As we approach that moment, we want to pause and reflect what made these two so special, not just to us, but to all of our hometowns that WDBJ7 serves. Please join us now in a moment of silence.



[09:23:01] COSTELLO: The family of the man who shot and killed two Virginia journalists is offering their sympathies, enlisting a family friend to read a statement on their behalf.


AMBER BOWMAN, FRIEND OF THE KILLER'S FAMILY: It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness we express our deepest condolences of the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. We are praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families and with WDBJ television station family.


COSTELLO: In the meantime, we're learning new details about what motivated the killer, including the plan for yesterday's attack that seemingly began weeks ago.

Drew Griffin has more.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day he was fired from WDBJ TV, February 1st, 2013, the shooter told his bosses, "I'm not leaving. You're going to have to call the F'ing police."

Colleagues say he threw a tantrum. The sells staff took shelter in a locked office. And police did indeed escort him out of the newsroom.

Internal memos obtained by CNN show his brief one-year employment was racked with aggressive behavior, poor journalistic performance, and warnings from management that he was making his co-workers feel threatened and uncomfortable. At one point, the station referred him to mandatory counseling.

After his firing, former colleagues tell CNN they were concerned for days he would come back.

Jeff Marks is the station's general manager.

JEFF MARKS, WDBJ PRESIDENT & GENERAL MANAGER: It was, I guess, bothersome that he was in town and would be seen by our employees. But again, what do you do?

GRIFFIN: The shooter sued WDBJ TV claiming discrimination, the suit dismissed last summer. The station was the last stop in what appears to be a spotty career in local television. Records show he worked at TV stations in Greenville; North Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Midland, Texas; and San Francisco, not far from his hometown.

[09:25:03] In 2000, he was fired from a station in Tallahassee, Florida, for what the news director described as odd behavior. After his firing, a lawsuit filed alleging racial discrimination, the suit dismissed.

This morning, allegations of racism would emerge again, this time, in a disturbing string of tweets on the shooter's own Twitter page. Hours after the shooting, he writes, "Alison made racist comments," meaning Alison Parker, the reporter he killed but never worked with. It's unclear if they ever even meant.

A minute later, he writes, "EEOC complaint," meaning a claim of racism with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Another tweet, "Adam went to the H.R. with me after working with me one time." He met the station's human resources department. Adam was Adam Ward, the photographer killed.

The station's manager says no one saw this coming.

MARKS: He did make some accusations against people some time ago. You could never imagine that someone's going to come back and act on those issues that were so old.

GRIFFIN: About a week ago, the shooter started posting pictures, an apparent life history, highlights from his childhood through high school and beyond.

And in the rambling 23-page fax to ABC News, he says his plan to kill was set in motion after the killings in South Carolina earlier this summer, "Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15."

Later, he writes admiration for the South Korean national mass killer responsible for the shootings at Virginia Tech, and the Columbine High School killers.

His final tweet, "I filmed the shooting. See Facebook."

Drew Griffin, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: With me now, Cornel West. He's a professor, author and activist with Black Lives Matter.

Welcome, Dr. West. Thank you for being here.


COSTELLO: Did race play a factor in this killer's rampage?

WEST: Well, you know, we don't know. I mean, the fundamental question is how do you get at this spiritual decay and this moral decadence in this society as a whole? All of us have to deal with rage. They could be male supremacy, white supremacy, homophobia, it could be living as a polar person because you've been betrayed by loved one, whatever it is. But how do you filter that rage through love and struggle for justice rather than hatred and an expression of revenge? And this is a larger question. We live in a society that evolved around money and image.

So, it pushes out wisdom. It pushes out empathy. And we don't have a push button solution at this problem. Gun control legislation, crucial. But if our souls are still shot through with the callousness and indifference towards others, then people will find something else.

COSTELLO: But the fact that he used the Charleston church shootings as an excuse, those were the most forgiving people on the planet, it's a disservice to them. It's disrespectful.

WEST: Yes. But, you don't know what goes on inside the mind of the person. I think he was a gay brother, I'm told. So, he's dealing with being marginalized in his own community. He's also being -- feeling he's under discrimination.

It's not an excuse for any kind of killing -- the killing of any innocent person is just wrong. We don't have a language to describe it. But at the same time, all of us are wrestling with this rage. And how do we express it in such a way --

COSTELLO: But wasn't -- I mean, didn't his rage come from an unbalanced place, though? He was a sick person, though, wasn't he?

WEST: I don't think he was mentally ill.


WEST: No, I don't. I think he snapped. I think that he just reached a point where he snaps. All of us can reach a point where we snapped. Don't get me wrong. But --

COSTELLO: It's not a lot through time though.

WEST: It was the process. But the problem is we live in a society where people don't give or get enough love. They don't give or get enough justice. They don't give or get enough community. When you're isolated and when you're insulated, that rage bubbles up. And lo and behold, you get a bigger Thomas.

COSTELLO: I have his work history right here. It sounds like he used these things as excuses for violent behavior.

WEST: He could have. We just don't know. But the important thing is this is not an isolated incident. This says something about us as a nation, as a people. How do we come to terms with contempt?

We see it in regard to our dear brother Trump, you see? What did you say about the precious Mexican brothers and sisters? No matter how you try to nuance it, it shows a hostility and a contempt. How do we talk in such a way, especially in the public sphere, in which we show an empathy and a sensitivity? Where is the integrity? This is the fundamental question I think we have --

COSTELLO: Let's talk about the gun issue. Chris Cuomo talked to Donald Trump earlier and on the gun issue he said some things that some politicians say. You know, this was a mentally ill person. Guns don't kill, people do.

WEST: Yes, we know that.