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Gunman shot Virginia TV journalists in the head; survivor was shot in the back

Gunman shot Virginia TV journalists in the head; survivor was shot in the back
From left, Amora DeVries, 7, Afira DeVries, Eva DeVries, 9, and Brenda Keeling of Roanoke show their support for two slain TV journalists at a candlelight vigil in front of the studios of WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va. (Don Petersen / AP)

The former reporter who killed two Virginia TV journalists on live television this week shot both victims in the body and the head, the medical examiner's office said Friday.

WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker, 24, was shot in the head and chest, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, was shot in the head and torso, according to the state medical examiner's office in Roanoke, Va.

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The cause of death for both was ruled as homicide by gunshot wound.

Former WDBJ-TV reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II also shot the woman the journalists were interviewing — local Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Gardner — in the back, according to Gardner's husband.

Tim Gardner was watching the journalists interview his wife Wednesday morning about the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake when Flanagan ambushed the group on live television.

"Alison [Parker], obviously, was the initial target," Tim Gardner told ABC News, relaying his wife's account of the attack. "He shot three times at my wife, and she was trying to dodge everything. He missed twice. And then she dove to the ground, curled up in a ball, and that's when he shot her in the back. ... Pulled the trigger several times, only fired once."

Parker and Ward were dead and Flanagan was gone when Vicki Gardner got up and "walked to the ambulance after being shot," her husband told ABC News.

"The surgeon told me a couple centimeters [difference in the wound] and she wouldn't be walking, and she wouldn't be alive," Tim Gardner said.

Vicki Gardner had a kidney and part of her colon removed but is expected to survive, ABC News reported.

Flanagan died after shooting himself in the head hours later during a car chase with police. Before dying, Flanagan, who was black, had faxed a manifesto to ABC News that complained about discrimination and that praised the mass shooters at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School.

The gun-control debate that has emerged since the shooting already involves a key figure close to the tragedy: Parker's father, who has promised to join the long ranks of other parents who have become gun-control advocates after high-profile shootings.

"She had so much potential, and it's senseless that her life and Adam's life were taken by a crazy person with a gun," Andy Parker told CNN on Thursday. "If I have to be the John Walsh of gun control — look, I'm for the 2nd Amendment. But there has to be a way to force politicians that are cowards, that are in the pockets of the NRA, to come to grips and have sensible laws so that crazy people can't have guns."

Virginia's Democratic governor vowed Friday to continue pushing for universal background checks, as he has before, even though a federal official confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Flanagan bought his handgun legally.

"There are too many guns in America, and there are too many guns in the wrong hands," Gov. Terry McAuliffe told reporters at a televised news conference after visiting WDBJ-TV, where he promised to provide whatever help or support the station needed.

McAuliffe acknowledged that Flanagan had undergone and passed a background check, adding, "You're still not going to stop all the violence."

But McAuliffe said requiring universal background checks and closing gun-show loopholes would be worth it.

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"If we can save one life, we need to do that," he said.

Follow @MattDPearce for national news

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