Meet the Mother of the Reporter Tragically Gunned Down on Live TV
Barbara Parker woke up at her usual time, around 7 a.m., on August 26, 2015. She went online to watch the news spots her daughter Alison, a TV reporter for WBDJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, had filmed earlier that morning.
“We used to always kid Alison. We’d say, ‘We’re not up at 5:50 in the morning — we’ll watch you when they post it on the Internet afterwards,'” Parker tells Rolling Stone. “That morning when I got up there was nothing there, and I assumed the live truck was down. Sometimes that would happen.”
That’s when she got a call from Alison’s boyfriend, Chris, telling her there had been a shooting. It would be two more hours before she learned Alison had been gunned down that morning, on live TV, in the middle of an interview about the anniversary of a local reservoir. (Cameraman Adam Ward was also killed, and Alison’s interviewee, Vicki Gardner, was shot but survived.)
The shooter, an embittered ex-colleague, uploaded his own video of the shooting to Facebook and Twitter, where it quickly spread around the web.
Neither Parker nor her husband Andy have seen the video. “We didn’t even turn the television on for two months because there was just that chance that we might see it,” she says. In the aftermath of Alison’s murder, they installed a browser extension to block news on Facebook they didn’t want to see, and Andy shut down the YouTube page where he’d posted whitewater paddling videos; the comments sections were flooded with claims that Alison’s murder was a hoax, that she was a “crisis actor,” that she was alive in the Bahamas.
“They did the same thing to the people at Sandy Hook,” Parker says. “We just did everything we could to protect ourselves from those people, and from seeing any of the video because that is not how we want to remember our daughter.”
Both Andy and Barbara grew up in Texas, in homes with guns. They understood the appeal on some level, but less and less as, over the last several years, they and their daughter saw successive mass shootings with no change in policy.
“When the Sandy Hook shootings happened, that hit home for us more than anything. I remember Alison just saying, ‘How can this happen? And why isn’t anything being done? … She kind of felt the way we did: I don’t get the fascination with having all these guns, but they’re out there, and it doesn’t really affect me.”
That changed, of course, that morning in August. Almost immediately after Alison’s murder, Barbara and Andy began speaking out, advocating for reasonable gun regulations. Andy did his first interview the day after Alison’s death. Two weeks later, he was in Washington, D.C., marching in a “Whatever It Takes” rally on Capitol Hill.