By SARA BLANKENSHIP, Staff
Around 800 students from the Twin Counties participated in the Carroll County Agriculture Fair Ag Education Days Tuesday through Thursday.
The students rotated between multiple stations learning about a range of topics at the Southwest Virginia Farmers&rsquo: Market. The various presenters gave engaging and fact-filled information to the students about recycling, beekeeping, soil and water conservation, lawnmower safety and cotton manufacturing.
WOODLAWN &mdash: Virginia State Police responded to a two-vehicle collision that occurred Tuesday night on Coulson Church Road (Virginia 620) in Carroll County, about one-tenth of a mile north of Senior Road, around 10 p.m.
According to a state police report, a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt was traveling northbound on Coulson Church Road when the driver crossed the centerline and struck a 2004 Toyota Tacoma head-on. The Tacoma overturned on its side as a result.
The man who murdered a television reporter and cameraman on live television set up websites that featured gay porn, according to records obtained by CNN.
Beginning on September 4, 2007, the records show that Vester L. Flanagan II set up domain names for seven different sites.
CNN found that Flanagan used his name and address in Vallejo, California, to register the sites. The last site registration from Flanagan was on January 22, 2008.
At the time of the site registrations, Flanagan was working as the "communications director" for a Web company called NDG Interactive, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The sites registered by Flanagan were all associated with gay porn or gay webcams. He is listed on the website domain registrations as both the administrative and technical contact.
One of the sites, according to an Internet archive search, offered a place "where you can talk live on video chat cam with your favorite gay hunks, pro and amateur models."
An email that Flanagan used when he set up the sites was also used on a basketball blog soliciting "live webcam models" with "nice bodies." It said the models "must be attractive & muscular."
The sites no longer appear active.
When a gunman opened fire Wednesday on two Virginia journalists and the woman they were interviewing on live TV, he was influenced by a long history of public mass killings throughout the country. Shooter Vester Lee Flanagan II said he admired mass shooters like those at Columbine High School in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007, and that he put down a deposit for a gun two days after the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting in June.
When it comes to gun massacres, the United States is tragically exceptional: There are more public mass shootings in the United States than in any other country in the world, according to a new study.
Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings are defined for the study as having four or more victims and don't include gang killings or slayings that involve the death of multiple family members: while high-profile, the Virginia shooting does not fit this definition. These are shootings such as those in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that same year.
The 90 U.S. mass shootings are nearly a third of the 292 such attacks globally for that period. While the U.S. has 5% of the world's population, it had 31% of all public mass shootings.
"People have been a little surprised by these statistics," said Adam Lankford, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, who did the analysis. Lankford presented his work at the American Sociological Association's annual conference last weekend and says it's the first research of its kind to do a global comparison.
How U.S. shootings are different
Lankford combed through the records of every incident and found a few common factors that set the U.S. incidents apart from the rest of the world's.
In the United States, people have a greater chance of dying in mass shootings if they're at work or at school. Overseas, these incidents typically happen near military installations.
In more than half the American cases, the shooter had more than one firearm. In global incidents, the shooter typically had only one gun.
And in the United States, there are 6.87 victims on average per incident. In the other 171 countries Lankford studied, the average was 8.8 victims per incident.
Lankford said he thinks there are fewer people killed in these mass shootings in the United States because American police routinely train on how to deal with this kind of incident, even though it happens rarely compared with other kinds of crime. "Police were slower to respond in other countries and were more likely to be ill-prepared when they did respond," Lankford said.
The copycat phenomenon
What's behind all these mass slayings in the United States?
Many of the shooters in the United States are mentally ill, according to the data, but other studies have shown that the estimated number of cases of mental illness hasn't gone up significantly, while the number of mass shootings has.
The incidents tripled from 2011 to 2014, according to a new analysis by the Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University. The Harvard research showed that public attacks in that time occurred every 64 days on average. During the previous 29 years, they happened every 200 days on average. In contrast, the overall U.S. homicide rate and rate of gun violence have dropped significantly over the past two decades.
Some researchers believe these mass killings can be contagious: One killing or shooting increases the chances that others will occur within about two weeks, an "infection" that lasts about 13 days, researchers found in another study this year.
The copycat phenomenon is more acute in the United States because guns are more accessible than in other countries. "(Access to) firearms (is) a significant predictor of these incidents," Lankford said.
The United States has more guns than any other country in the world. There are an estimated 270 million to 310 million firearms in circulation in the United States. With the American population at 318.9 million, that breaks down to nearly one firearm for every American. But only slightly more than one-third of Americans say they or someone in their home owns a gun, according to the Pew Research Center. The country with the next-highest number of guns is India, with 46 million guns spread across a much larger population of more than 1.25 billion. India doesn't even crack the top five among countries with the most mass shootings.
The numbers do show that more restrictive gun laws make a difference. Lankford points to Australia as an example. The country had four mass shootings between 1987 and 1996. After those incidents, public opinion turned against gun ownership and Parliament passed stricter gun laws. Australia hasn't had a mass shooting since.
Is desire for fame a factor?
There is not, however, the same political will in the United States. With one exception, Pew polls taken after many of the high-profile mass shootings suggest that Americans typically favor more gun ownership after such incidents.
Lankford does have another theory that he plans to explore next with his research.
"It's harder to quantify it, but I've been struck by research that shows that being famous is one of this generation's most important goals," Lankford said. "It seems like Americans are growing in their desire for fame, and there is no doubt that that there is an association between media coverage that these offenders get and the likelihood that they will act."
Lankford said if anything good can come out of his study, it's that knowledge may help others prepare for the unthinkable.
"Our homicide rate is higher than comparable European nations. If anything, though, it is these kinds of attacks that make us stand out so negatively from the rest of the world and give us this violent reputation as a country," Lankford said. "Frankly, if we want to give the world a message from what we've learned from all of this, is to say that, 'It is possible, these things do happen, so be prepared and learn from it before you have a tragedy of your own.'"
The chamber of commerce executive shot during a live news broadcast in Virginia was in stable condition Wednesday after undergoing emergency surgery, officials said.
Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, underwent surgery after she was shot in the back, said Barb Nocera, the chamber's special projects manager.
Gardner was recovering at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, hospital president Steve Arner said Wednesday. Gardner is also a member of the hospital's board of directors and is "a close friend" of the institution, he said in a statement.
Gardner has been working at the chamber since 2002, according to her LinkedIn page.
Chamber board chairman Troy Keaton described Gardner as "an exceptional bright light in this community."
"We stand with her 100% and are praying for her and are thankful that she is in stable condition and is in good hands," Keaton told reporters. "We just want her to know, and this community to know, that Vicki has been a champion for us for more than a decade.
"We're going to get together as a community and stay together and make it through this," Keaton added.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called the shooting, which killed two journalists, a "senseless tragedy."
"We also continue to pray for the safe recovery of Vicki Gardner, who was wounded in this terrible incident," he said.
Wednesday's shooting occurred when Gardner was being interviewed in a live broadcast by reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Virginia-based WDBJ-TV.
Parker and Ward were killed in the shooting at Bridgewater Plaza near Moneta.
A man sought in connection with the shooting shot himself as police confronted him on Interstate 66 in Virginia, and he has been identified as former WDBJ-TV reporter Vester Flanagan, who used the name Bryce Williams on air, according to law enforcement officials and a former WDBJ employee.
As executive director of the chamber, Gardner was a leading figure promoting business development and recreational attractions at the lake community near Roanoke, Virginia.
Smith Mountain Lake is noted in Virginia for being the state's second-largest freshwater lake and is a scenic attraction with more than 500 miles of shoreline along the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, according to the Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Virginia State Parks website.
Smith Mountain Lake is a reservoir whose dam on the Roanoke River was built in the 1960s, the project's website says.
The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce is organizing a 50th anniversary event in 2016, the chamber's Facebook page says.
The lake is home to residents and recreational businesses, and the water in Smith Mountain Lake passes through hydroelectric generators to provide electricity for the region, the dam project's website says.
The water and landscape attract anglers, boaters, campers, cyclists and picnickers, the state parks website says.
The lake's 1,148-acre state park is 33 miles southeast of Roanoke and 150 miles west of the state capital of Richmond.
Vester L. Flanagan II, the suspect in the slayings of two WDBJ-TV journalists, died at a hospital Wednesday afternoon of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Franklin County, Virginia, Sheriff Bill Overton told reporters.
Flanagan, a former WDBJ reporter, killed two of the Roanoke TV station's employees, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, live on air before fleeing in a gray 2009 Ford Mustang to Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. There, he ditched the Mustang and drove away in a Chevrolet Sonic that he had rented earlier in the month, Overton told reporters.
Just before 11:30 a.m., Virginia State Police saw the suspect's car headed east on Interstate 66. With emergency lights activated, a Virginia State Police trooper initiated a traffic stop, said police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.
The driver refused to stop and sped away before running off the road and crashing, Geller told CNN. Troopers found the driver inside. He had suffered a gunshot wound. He was transported to a nearby hospital, Geller said.
Authorities tracked Flanagan's cell phone to locate him, according to federal officials and the Augusta County Sheriff's Department.
Flanagan was a reporter at WDBJ for about a year using the on-air name, Bryce Williams, according to a former WDBJ employee. He was fired from the station, though the reason was not made public, the ex-employee said.
"Two years ago, we had to separate him from the company. We did understand that he was still living in the area," WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks said.
Manifesto: Revenge for Charleston church shooting
ABC News reported that it received a fax containing a 23-page manifesto from someone named Bryce Williams, according to a tweet. The document was handed over to investigators, ABC said.
The network posted a short story reporting some of the manifesto's contents. They show Flanagan alleging that he had been the victim of bullying and discrimination because he is gay and black.
He also said that he was compelled to respond to Dylann Roof's massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June and he was inspired by Seung Hui Cho, who orchestrated the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
"You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE ...(deleted)!!!" ABC quoted from the manifesto.
Two videos posted on a Twitter account under the name, Bryce Williams, show someone walking up to the WDBJ news crew and pointing a gun at them.
Another tweet said, "I filmed the shooting." The Facebook and Twitter account were suspended shortly after the tweets.
Video shows the gunman approaching Parker, a WDBJ reporter, and photographer Ward as Parker conducted a routine interview about a local story outside Moneta, Virginia.
Ward's back is to the gunman. Parker is in profile, and the interviewee is facing the gunman. The shooter appears to take his time aiming the gun, presenting it and then withdrawing it, before composing the angle of his video. He opens fire on Parker first. Both Parker and the interviewee scream.
Shocking morning broadcast
During the live broadcast around 6:45 a.m., TV viewers saw the camera fall to the ground and caught the briefest glimpse of a man who appeared to point a gun toward the downed cameraman.
The station cut away to a shocked anchor, Kimberly McBroom, back in the studio.
Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, were killed at Bridgewater Plaza near Moneta, the station reported later.
Ward's fiancé:e was in the control room and saw the shooting, Marks told CNN.
Though Marks has heard that Flanagan had leveled accusations in the past, he said, "I don't think (reporter) Alison (Parker) and that individual even overlapped here."
Marks added he was not exaggerating when he says that Parker and photographer Adam Ward were "the kindest and nicest people who worked here. ... I can't figure out any connection."
According to tweets from the Bryce Williams account, Alison had "made racist comments," while "Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!" There was no elaboration, and CNN was unable to immediately confirm if either claim was true.
The woman being interviewed, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was shot in the back and is in surgery, said Barb Nocera, the chamber's special projects manager.
Gardner is recovering from emergency surgery and is in stable condition, according to Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital in Rocky Mount, Virginia.
The gunman was believed to have fired six or seven times, Marks said.
Parker a 'rock star'
"We do not know the motive," Marks said. "We do know the Franklin County sheriff ... they are working very diligently to track down both the motive and the person responsible for this terrible crime against two fine journalists," he said during the station's coverage of the shooting.
"Our hearts are broken," Marks said. "We have people walking around here in tears, lots of hugs."
McBroom described Parker as a "rock star" and said, "You throw anything at that girl and she could do it."
Another journalist at the anchor's desk said Ward was engaged to be married to morning show producer at WDBJ, Melissa Ott, and Ward recently told her, "I'm going to get out of news. I think I'm going to do something else."
Ward joined WDBJ in 2011 after graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in communication and media studies, according to his Facebook page. He enrolled at the university in 2007, the same year a gunman went on a deadly rampage, leaving 32 people dead.
In April, days before the eighth anniversary of the campus massacre, Ward changed his Facebook profile photo to an image of the Virginia Tech logo with a black ribbon.
The school said in a statement, "It is shocking and deeply saddening for this community to be again struck by gun violence. We deplore this senseless violence, now seemingly commonplace in our society."
Added one of Ward's professors, Robert Denton, "Adam was a delightful person. He worked hard -- you could tell he loved what he was doing. He wasn't afraid to pitch in and do whatever was necessary for the broadcast. He did whatever was needed with a smile and with grace. He was simply a very nice young man and very professional."
Parker was the morning reporter for the Roanoke station and a native of Virginia, having spent most of her life outside Martinsville. She started with WDBJ as an intern, her biography on the station's website says.
She joined WDBJ last year after completing a summer internship as a news reporter in 2012.
She previously worked with another CNN affiliate, WCTI-TV, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. She was a graduate of James Madison University's School of Media Arts and Design in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
"Today we received news that no family should ever hear. Our vivacious, ambitious, smart, engaging, hilarious, beautiful, and immensely talented Alison taken from the world. This is senseless and our family is crushed," Parker's family said in a statement.
Boyfriend describes himself as 'numb'
Chris Hurst, a reporter for the station, tweeted that he and Parker "were very much in love" and had just moved in together after dating nine months, "the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday."
He continued, "She was the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back. She loved her family, her parents and her brother."
Hurst described himself as "numb."
Parker and Ward worked together every day, Hurst tweeted. "They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee," he wrote.
"You know, you send people into war zones, you send people into dangerous situations and into riots, and you worry that they are going to get hurt. You send somebody out to do a story on tourism and -- how can you expect something like this to happen?" Marks told CNN.
A local pastor, "a friend of the newsroom," is at the station, consoling Parker's and Ward's co-workers, he said.
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