Tragedy struck Roanoke, Virginia this morning when two employees of WDBJ-TV — a CBS Roanoke affiliate — were gunned down during a live broadcast. The victims, 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward, were in the middle of a report on the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake when a gunman began firing at them from behind the camera. As Ward’s camera fell to the ground, viewers could briefly catch a glimpse of the shooter — an African-American man dressed from head to toe in black.
The gunman was quickly identified as 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan, a former WDBJ-TV reporter who went by the on-air name Bryce Williams. According to his now-deleted LinkedIn page, Flanagan worked at WDBJ between March 2012 and February 2013. Jeff Marks, the general manager of the station, said that Flanagan had a reputation for “being difficult to work with” and was ultimately fired over his anger problems. Flanagan had to be escorted from the building by police officers.
One former co-worker at WDBJ described him as a paranoid man who “really felt like everybody was out to get him” and who perceived everyone who crossed him as “racist.” Indeed, prior to his work with WDBJ Flanagan had sued WTWC-TV, a Tallahassee NBC affiliate, for racial discrimination, alleging that his superiors referred to him and other black employees as “monkeys.” The suit was later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in 2001. When Flanagan was fired from WTWC, he claimed it was retaliation for his allegations of racial discrimination.
According to Kevin Christopher, a WTWC anchor who worked with Flanagan, he was actually terminated for his poor performance. “[H]e was not the greatest employee in the world. He just wasn’t getting the work done, and he always thought it was someone else’s fault,” Christopher said. This sentiment was echoed by TV producer Greg Sextro, who said Flanagan was “not a good reporter” and “made that [racial] crap up.”
That same pattern seemed to follow Flanagan at WDBJ. Shortly after the shooting Flanagan posted a video of it to his Facebook page and sent out a series of Tweets hinting at his motive:
According to Flanagan, shooting victim Alison Parker “made racist comments” while Adam Ward “went to [human resources] after working with me one time!!!” Our current portrait of Vester Flanagan is one of an angry and disturbed man, still seething after being fired yet again for poor performance and an inability to interact with others — criticism which Flanagan chalked up to co-workers and bosses being closet racists.
In a 23-page suicide note — which he faxed to ABC News before his fatal rampage — Flanagan wrote that he was motivated by Dylann Storm Roof’s terrorist attack on a Charleston, South Carolina church in June. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting,” wrote Flanagan, “And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.” He also lauded Virginia Tech killer Seung Hui Cho. “That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann [sic] Klebold got…just sayin.'” Disgruntled and angry at his former employers, and using white racism as a convenient excuse, Flanagan purchased a gun and prepared for war.
Some reports* initially claimed that Flanagan had been in a relationship with victim Alison Parker — which, if it were true, would make sense considering the ubiquity of intimate partner violence directed toward women. Over 90 percent of female homicide victims are killed by someone they know personally, and over 76 percent were stalked prior to their deaths. Of the women who knew their killers, 60 percent were intimately involved with them. However, these reports appear to be erroneous. Parker was engaged to be married to WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst. In an emotional Facebook post, Hurst wrote that he and Alison were “very much in love.” “We just moved in together,” he wrote. “I am numb.” In addition, Flanagan was an openly gay man — at least according to his suicide note.
It has been several hours after this horrific tragedy, and Flanagan is reportedly dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As such, we will likely never learn more about what motivated the killer beyond what he wrote in his final note to the press. One thing is for certain, however. Flanagan himself stated that his “anger has been building steadily”, and described himself as a “human powder keg…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!” The worst part is that he’s only the latest in a long line of men to do so.
Update: The source of the story that Flanagan was, in some way, romantically involved with Alison Parker appears to have come from a liberal blog called Occupy Democrats, which is known for spreading blatant falsehoods in an effort to score more page views. Other websites such as the usually reliable Think Progress ran with this misinformation but have since corrected themselves. Although I specifically refuted this idea, I just want to make it crystal clear to readers that this rumor is, indeed, one hundred percent false. I’d expect this kind of shit from The Blaze or The Gateway Pundit, but liberal bloggers should know better.