This morning, Virginia reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman Adam Ward lost their lives after a former co-worker ambushed their live shot with his own camera and a handgun. The attack was aired on live TV, horrifying both their colleagues, and viewers of the WDBJ’s early morning show.
Ward managed to capture footage of the shooting before falling to the ground; things went dark on the broadcast, but his camera caught a shot of the gunman:
SUSPECT: a better image of suspected gunman who shot & killed VA news crew live on air
— Lauren Zakalik (@wfaalauren) August 26, 2015
A several-hour pursuit ended when authorities finally apprehended the suspect; he had shot himself in the head on Interstate 6 in Faquier County and later died in a Washington, DC-area trauma center.
We now know the identity of that gunman. Vester Flanagan, a/k/a Bryce Williams (his professional alias,) had previously worked at WDBJ, but was fired after anger management issues boiled over into the workplace.
Before the shooting, Flanagan faxed a 23-page manifesto to ABC News blaming the Charleston shootings for his actions:
“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…,” the faxed document said, according to ABC News.
“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
The fax reportedly went on to say that Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act, and later, the writer quoted the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calling him “his boy.” The writer also reportedly expressed admiration for the Columbine High School killers.
The fax reportedly served as an often rambling letter to authorities and family and friends of the writer. The writer labeled one part of the document a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family,” according to the network.
Flanagan posted several tweets during the police pursuit, and published his own first-person perspective video of Alison and Adam’s murder. He claimed that he suffered racial discrimination at the hands of this former colleagues, because he was black, and gay.
Flanagan had a history of complaining about his treatment in the workplace:
In 2000, Flanagan filed a complaint against WTWC-TV in Tallahassee seeking $15,000 for race discrimination and retaliation, according to court documents.
According to the complaint, Flanagan, who is black, “complained of unlawful employment practices in the workplace and was the victim of retaliation thereafter.”
The complaint alleges Flanagan was called a “monkey” by a producer working for WTWC-TV in or around the summer of 1999. It further alleges that in the fall of 1999, Flanagan was told by a co-worker that it “busted her butt that blacks did not take advantage of the free money,” allegedly referring to scholarship money made available to African-Americans attending college.
The complaint alleges the co-worker then stated that “blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money.”
In December 1999, the complaint alleges, inappropriate comments were made by co-workers in reference to a black murder suspect.
The complaint says that after Flanagan notified managerial-level employees of these alleged incidents, he was notified his contract was not going to be renewed.
According to court filings, the complaint was settled in January 2001.
He also sued WDBJ, alleging similar mistreatment, but the claim was dismissed:
The Roanoke Times reports Flanagan was hired by WDBJ-TV in the spring of 2012 and was let go in February 2013. In May 2014, Flanagan filed a lawsuit against WDBJ claiming unpaid overtime, wrongful termination, retaliation, hostile work environment, racial harassment and discrimination.
A memo from WDBJ regarding Flanagan’s termination is included in court records obtained by CBS News. The memo says that when Flanagan was told he was being fired, he responded by saying, “You better call police because I’m going to make a big stink. This is not right.”
According to the memo, Flanagan went on to berate staff members – including Adam Ward – who was present and recording the incident. When Flanagan was ultimately escorted from the newsroom by police, he handed another staff member a wooden cross that was on his desk and said, “You’ll need this,” the memo says.
Another WBDJ memo in the court filing says all employees at the station were informed Flanagan was terminated and that “anyone seeing him on company property should call 911 immediately.”
In the immediate wake of the shooting, gun control advocates immediately started searching for evidence suggesting that Flanagan’s actions could be blamed on lax gun control laws. However, a cursory investigation into how he managed to obtain his weapon showed that he passed a background check.
We’ll keep you updated as more information becomes available.DONATE
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