Devastated father of murdered TV reporter Alison Parker vows to campaign for tighter gun controls
- Andy Parker, 62, said he hasn't been able to watch news since shooting
- His daughter was gunned down while recording for WDBJ in Virginia
- Paid tribute to her, saying: 'Everybody that she touched loved her'
- Compared the video of her death to the 'beheadings' released by ISIS
The heartbroken father of the TV reporter murdered by a crazed gunman during a live broadcast has said his grief is 'unbearable' but has vowed to campaign for stricter legislation that would stop firearms getting into the hands of 'crazy people'.
Viewers of WDBJ, a CBS affiliate in Moneta, Virginia, watched in horror on Wednesday morning as Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, shot dead 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, on live TV as the two were filming a light-hearted segment.
Andy Parker, 62, said he has been unable to watch the news in the aftermath of his daughter's death but has vowed to take the fight on gun control to legislators and 'shame them' into action.
He also said he hasn't watched videos of the shootings that have circulated online, comparing them to disturbing clips of ISIS beheading hostages.
Scroll down for video
In her honor: Andy Parker, father of slain journalist Alison Parker, gave several TV interviews Wednesday night and Thursday morning in memory of his daughter
Heartbroken: Alison Parker's (left) father (second from right) has said his grief is 'unbearable' and he has been unable to watch the news since his TV reporter daughter was gunned down during a live broadcast
Victims: Alison Parker (left) and her cameraman, 27-year-old Adam Ward (right), were killed by a crazed gunman while taping a story near the small town of Moneta, Virginia Wednesday morning
The banking industry recruiter added that he found 'solace' when a police officer told him she did not suffer before she passed away.
He told the Washington Post: 'My grief is unbearable. Is this real? Am I going to wake up? I am crying my eyes out. I don’t know if there’s anybody in this world or another father who could be more proud of their daughter.
I am going to do something, whatever it takes, to shame legislators about closing loop-holes in background checks to make sure crazy people don't get guns. This isn't the last you've heard from me.
Andy Parker, father of slain journalist Alison Parker
He then revealed his shock when he learned Flanagan had captured the shootings on video and then posted them on the internet.
'It’s like showing those beheadings. I am not going to watch it. I can’t watch it. I can’t watch any news. All it would do is rip out my heart further than it already it is
In a second emotional interview, , standing beside his daughter's boyfriend Chris Hurst, he told Fox News' Megyn Kelly: 'She was a journalist first and a TV personality second.
'She was only 24 years old, yet she lived a great life. She excelled at everything she did. She loved what she did, she loved the people that she worked with.
'She had a wonderful life, she was extremely happy. Everybody that she touched loved her and she loved everybody back.'
He then vowed to tackle the issue of gun control by doing his own campaigning.
'We have got to do something about crazy people getting guns.
'I am going to do something, whatever it takes, to shame legislators about closing loop-holes in background checks to make sure crazy people don't get guns. This isn't the last you've heard from me.'
Close-knit: The Parker family went on vacation together to Mexico in May last year to visit the Mayan Ruins of Coba (pictured)
Smiling faces: Alison and her mom Barbara showed off their rain gear as they posed together at the famous city last year
Mother, daughter: Alison Parker with her mom Barbara. The slain reporter had shared several family photos on social media
He continued to be a champion for his daughter Thursday morning, when he appeared on CNN.
Mr Parker explained that he initially didn't want to do interviews about his daughter, but realized that he needed to speak about her in order to stop violence like this from happening again.
'Yesterday, I really dint think I would be making the news round circuit and just had no intention of doing so.
'Then as I reflected during the day, I realized that Alison was a journalist and she would want me to do this,' Mr Parker told CNN.
Mr Parker went on to say that he will become an advocate against gun violence, and that his daughter's death is just one more tragedy that could have been prevented if there were stricter gun control laws in the U.S.
'I'm for the second amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians who are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to come to grips and 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,' Mr Parker said.
The mourning father then turned angry as he spoke about the NRA, and their usual response to shootings like this, which have become a regular occurrence in America.
'I can hear it now - they're gonna say "oh gee, well if they were carrying this would never have happened."
'Well I got news for you, if Alison or Adam had been carrying an AK47 strapped around their waist it wouldn't have made any difference. They couldn't have seen it coming. So I don't want to hear that argument from the NRA.
'I'm going to take it on,' he said.
Memorial: Floral tributes were left for Alison Parker and Adam Ward outside the TV station where they worked together, following their assassination by a former employee early on Wednesday morning
Missed: This poignant makeshift memorial was placed outside the doors to WDBJ-TV's headquarters on Wednesday
Politicians also weight in on the issue following the attacks, including President Obama.
Obama said he was heartbroken when he heard about the shooting and said that gun-related homicides in us 'dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism
Speaking to ABC, Obama said: 'It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kinds of incidents.
'What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.'
Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the shooting, tweeting to her followers that she was 'heartbroken and angry.'
'We must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer. Praying for the victims' families in Virginia,' the former secretary of state wrote.
Mrs Clinton addressed the incident again during a campaign stop in Iowa, declaring that something must be done with gun violence in the US.
'And I will take it on. There are many people who face it and know it, but then turn away because it’s hard. It’s a very political, difficult issue in America, but I believe we are smart enough, we are compassionate enough to figure out how to balance the legitimate Second Amendment rights with preventive measures and control measures so that whatever motivated this murderer, who eventually took his own life, we will not see more deaths — needless, senseless deaths,' she told reporters during the press conference.
Following the tragedy on Wednesday, Mr Parker issued a statement saying: 'Barbara (her mother), Drew and I are numb, devastated and I find my grief unbearable.
'Alison was our bright, shining light and it was cruelly extinguished by yet another crazy person with a gun.
'She excelled at everything she did and was loved by everyone she touched. She loved us dearly, and we talked to her every single day.
'Not hearing her voice again crushes my soul. Our family can take solace in the fact that although her life was brief, she was so happy with it. She lived it to the fullest and her spirit will always be with us.'
The heartbroken boyfriend of Parker also spoke about their final hours together.
WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, 28, told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he and Alison - who was a reporter for the station - had recently moved in together.
He revealed that they had begun dating on January 1 this year - and that he loved her 'infinitely'.
Dedicated: Parker posted these pictures of her filming for the TV station on her Twitter account
Professionals: In this photo she is being filmed by Adam Ward, who was also killed on Wednesday
Hurst walked out of WDBJ's headquarters at 2.30pm on Wednesday to talk to waiting reporters - just a few hours after Alison, 24, and her cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were gunned down.
Hurst showed the waiting reporters a photo album he and Alison had put together about their romance and said: 'The best thing for me now is to share her story and our story - and that's going to be the way I think I'm able to process this immediately.
'It's going to be very difficult for us all here and there are going to be a lot of tears shed - and I've done my fair share already.'
He went on: 'I'm ok. This is starting to be a little surreal because Alison and I are normally on the other side - and so for me to now have all of these cameras in my face is very strange and unfortunate and not where I think any of us want to be.
'I thought that it was important for me as a member of this community and a leader of this station and someone who loved Alison infinitely to come out and share with you her story and her life - one of great promise and exuberance and joy that now will not be able to continue.
'But the life that she led and the life that she shared with me was bright, and we will not do anything to try to extinguish that light that she had.'
Proud boyfriend: Hurst showed the reporters and cameramen a photo album the couple had put together about their romance
'We just celebrated her 24th birthday': Hurst said the last nine months with Parker had been the happiest of his life. He is pictured with his girlfriend in a Facebook photo at a social event
Parker was interviewing Vicki Gardner, the local chamber of commerce director, for a light-hearted segment at 6:45am, while Ward was filming them.
About eight shots rang out and screams were heard as the women ducked and the camera fell to the floor. A person dressed in black was then seen standing nearby with what appeared to be a gun raised in one hand, pointed at Ward.
The general manager at the CBS station later came on air to confirm that Parker and Ward had died.
The shooting happened at Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County, as Parker interviewed Gardner about the upcoming 50th anniversary festivities for Smith Mountain Lake, a local tourism destination.
According to Jeffrey Marks, the WDBJ7 station chief, 40,000 viewers saw the shooting as it happened. He added that the station will not be airing the video again.
He said: 'We are choosing not to run the video of that right now because, frankly, we don’t need to see it again. And our staff doesn’t need to see it again.'
Cameraman Ward graduated from Virginia Tech University and was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, said WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan.
Scholar: Parker pictured above on her graduation from James Madison University in 2012
'Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked,' Morgan said. 'He did live shots during our morning show for several years.'
Parker had just turned 24 and had joined the station as an intern after attending James Madison University, where she was the editor of the student newspaper, The Breeze.
The station is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and serves the southwest and central part of the state. The shootings happened at a mall just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, about 25 miles southeast of Roanoke.
According to Parker's Facebook page, she was an avid kayaker and attended community theater events in her spare time.