‘A gut punch’: Father of TV reporter killed in Virginia reacts to Orlando shooting spree

Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward were murdered on air in 2015

As the country mourns the deaths of three people killed in a shooting spree near Orlando, including a TV news reporter, the father of another reporter killed on the job years back calls the violence “a gut punch.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate Wednesday’s events where deputies say a 19-year-old man killed a 38-year-old woman and then shot a news crew covering the homicide.

Spectrum News 13 reporter Dylan Lyons was killed. His photojournalist partner Jesse Walden was critically injured but is recovering in the hospital.

Deputies said Keith Moses also randomly shot 9-year-old T’yonna Major and her mother in their home before they arrested him nearby.

Dylan Lyons (Spectrum News 13)

Major died. She was a third-grade student at Pine Hills Elementary School, where she was described as bright, energetic and sweet. Her mother, whose name has not been released, was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

It started Wednesday morning, deputies said, when Moses shot and killed Natacha Augstin shortly after she got into a vehicle he was in. He left the scene before law enforcement arrived.

Several news crews, including News 13, responded to the neighborhood to cover the homicide.

The shooting spree sent shockwaves across the nation. It hit especially hard for the family of Alison Parker in Virginia.

Parker, 24, was a reporter a WDBJ in Roanoke. She and her photojournalist partner Adam Ward, 27, were doing a live report for the TV station in 2015 when a man walked up and shot them point blank. The pair was murdered while on the air. The woman they were interviewing, the leader of the local chamber of commerce, was hurt but survived.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward (Provided by Andy Parker)

After a several-hour manhunt, authorities got into a chase with the shooter who livestreamed his action. He killed himself after a crash, officers said.

The man was identified as a disgruntled former reporter at WDBJ. He had been fired in 2013 for disruptive conduct.

“Well, my first reaction was, oh (expletive), that was basically my reaction,” Andy Parker told News4JAX, recalling when he found out about the shooting spree in Florida this week. “You know, it was a gut punch. It was, it truly was, like, somebody hit me in the stomach.”

Shortly after the shooting, he tweeted his feelings.

“I’m so heartsick. Like a bad dream, this brings it all back to Alison’s murder on 8/26/15.” He went on to call out the NRA and the Republican Party, which he contends “have blood on their hands.”

“I don’t expect journalists (to be targets), they’re out there just doing their job,” he told News4JAX Friday. “They’re reporting their beat. They’re doing their job. You know, that’s what Allison was doing. That’s what Dylan was doing. You know, it’s, you don’t expect this kind of outcome in the United States, you expect it in for somebody covering a warzone. But not here. But unfortunately, that’s kind of what it’s come down to now.”

He sent his love to everyone affected by the tragedy.

His daughter and Lyons had several similarities: both 24 years old, passionate about the careers in broadcast journalism, and both were in loving relationships.

“My wife spoke with Dylan’s Mom, just a little while ago, she reached out and she talked to her,” he said. “She’s devastated, just like we were. And so, Barbara tried to at least give her some kind of comfort and perhaps a way forward.”

Alison Parker (Provided by Andy Parker)

Andy Parker said people ask how he and his family are able to cope with such a loss.

“As the assistant GM at WDBJ told us that day, he said, ‘Listen, Allison would want you to live.’ And at the time, it, it was tough, because you just want to die. I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s, it’s awful. It’s, you know, you’ll never, you’ll, there will always be a giant hole in your soul,” Parker said. “She was just a wonderful soul. And everybody loved her, everybody that worked with her. She was just gracious and trying to go out of her way to help people.”

He acknowledged the pain and anger don’t go away.

“We’ll never get to see where she could have gone in her career,” he pointed out. “And I think that’s the that’s part of the regret that I have. Not that it’s, you know, that’s just my own selfish reasons, but she was on her way to do some great things.”

He said he has some contact with Ward’s family, who was distraught over their loss.

Adam Ward (Provided)

Andy Parker, who became a nationally known advocate for stronger gun laws, affirms in this case and his daughter’s that the shooters should not have had access to firearms.

“If we don’t do something about gun violence in this country, we’re not going to have anything left,” Parker added.

He’s pushed for better red flag laws, a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, and universal background checks. He even ran for Congress to change the laws. He said he hopes someday to convince lawmakers to take gun violence seriously.

Andy Parker also took legal action to remove videos of the actual shooting that killed his daughter and Ward from social media.

You can visit Andy Parker’s website at andysfight.com.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.