Bedford Co., VA – Last week’s deadly shooting of those WDBJ journalists happened on the Franklin County side of Smith Mountain Lake, but three deputies from Bedford County were the first to arrive.
The deputies all live near the lake and were either coming off shift or heading into work that morning.
Deputy Andrew O’Conner arrived at Bridgewater Plaza just three seconds after Franklin County notified Bedford dispatch. O’Conner saw WDBJ’s live truck parked out front. He did not know if the shooter was still around and used the plaza’s deck as cover.
“He was moving from beam to beam with his weapon drawn, being very careful,” said Sheriff Mike Brown. “Worked his way up, at that time saw the victims laying on the deck on the third level.”
Reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward were dead. O’Conner reached the only survivor, Vicki Gardner.
“She asked O’Conner to please call 911,” said Brown. “He said, well we are 911.”
A second deputy Sgt. Chris Edmondson arrived, allowing O’Conner to get Gardner on her feet.
“He had his back covered as we say,” said Brown. “O’Conner held her on his left side, keeping his right hand and his weapon drawn.”
“They took up defensive positions at the car,” said Brown. “They put her into the backseat to protect her and noticed the ambulance.”
Joined by Deputy Mike Holt, with guns drawn, they surround the ambulance and EMS crew.
“They worked as a team,” said Brown.
Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton told ABC 13 the counties have a mutual aid agreement.
“I’m just so thankful for their quick response in helping to get there,” said Sheriff Bill Overton. “Certainly I think once those officers were first on the scene they were trying to make as quick of an assessment as they could.”