Alison Parker was interviewing a woman at approximately 6.45 a.m. when shots rang out. Both women screamed, CNN reported.
As the camera fell to the ground, the audience caught the briefest glimpse of a man who appeared to pointing a gun towards the downed cameraman.
The station immediately cut away to a shocked anchor, Kimberly McBroom, back in the studio.
Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were killed in the shooting at Bridgewater Plaza near Moneta, the station reported later.
The woman being interviewed, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was shot in the back and was in surgery, said Barb Nocera, the chamber’s special projects manager said.
The gunman was believed to have fired six or seven times, WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks said.
The assailant remained on the loose. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was participating in the manhunt, while the ATF and FBI were participating in the investigation. Area schools were on lockdown.
Authorities know the identity of the man believed to be the shooter, a law enforcement official told CNN.
“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 on air, explaining that Parker’s and Ward’s colleagues were “holding back tears”.
McBroom described Parker as a “rock star” and said: “You throw anything at that girl and she could do it.”
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 said.
She previously worked with another CNN affiliate, WCTI, 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.