Apparent Vester Flanagan ‘Suicide Note’ Claims Discrimination Fueled TV Shooting

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Alison Parker and Adam Ward, WDBJ Journalists Killed on Live TV, ‘Were Special People’.

The news became personal for the CBS affiliate in Virginia when reporter Parker and cameraman Ward were fatally shot during a live broadcast Wednesday, forcing co-workers to balance the stunning tragedy with professionalism. “This is a hard day for all of us here at WDBJ7.The father of a young journalist fatally shot by a gunman during an on-air segment in Virginia Wednesday said in an interview on Fox News that he wants to make it harder for the mentally ill to get guns.

Adam Ward was engaged to be married, Alison Parker had just started a serious relationship nine months ago — and both their partners were part of their WDBJ7 station family in rural Virginia. Flanagan killed himself hours later as police chased him on an interstate. “I’m going to do something, whatever it takes, to get gun legislation — to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes and background checks and making sure crazy people don’t get guns,” Andy Parker said.

He died in hospital. “What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism,” he added. What unfolded was familiar to any TV viewer: A recounting of the crime; news conferences with updates from authorities, and reaction from those who knew the victims. Parker, who just turned 24, and Ward, 27, were killed when a gunman stormed their live interview, firing several shots just before 7 a.m. at a shopping center in Moneta, Virginia. “Alison was our bright, shining light and it was cruelly extinguished by yet another crazy person with a gun,” he said. “She excelled at everything she did and was loved by everyone she touched. It was not clear Wednesday night how Flanagan obtained the weapon he allegedly used to kill Parker and Ward, or if Flanagan had anything in his past that would have prevented him from owning a gun.

He points the gun at Parker and then at Ward, but he waits patiently to shoot until he knows that Parker is on camera, so she will be gunned down on air. The station in Virginia’s Roanoke-Lynchburg media market, however, left it other outlets to dwell on the footage from WDBJ’s unwitting broadcast of the shooting and, in a bleakly modern twist, apparent “selfie” video posted online by the alleged gunman. He had been fired from at least two stations for conflicts with colleagues who described him as an “off-kilter” loner easily angered by office humour. After Flanagan allegedly opened fire on the two journalists and a woman being interviewed, a man claiming to be Flanagan sent a long fax to ABC News alleging discrimination and referencing other mass shooters.

When he was sacked from WDBJ in Virginia in 2013, he had to be escorted out of the building by local police “because he was not going to leave willingly or under his own free will,” said the station’s former news director, Dan Dennison. The station received calls for interview requests from media outlets in Russia and Australia, among others. “We are choosing not to run the video of that (the shooting) right now because, frankly, we don’t need to see it again. Flanagan had “a long series of complaints against co-workers nearly from the beginning of employment at the TV station,” said Mr Dennison. “All of these allegations were deemed to be unfounded. That man, authorities said, was Flanagan — a former staffer who used the on-air name of Bryce Williams and was fired by WDBJ, a man who always was looking for reasons to take offense, colleagues recalled.

And they were largely along racial lines, and we did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man.” A third person, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, who was being interviewed by Ms Parker, was injured in the shooting. Immediately after the shooting, the broadcast cut to McBroom in the studio as she first registered the shock. “How can this individual have robbed these families, the families of Alison and Adam, of their lives and their happiness and their love for whatever reason?” he asked, choked up.

The conflict described by Mr Dennison in many ways echoed another when Flanagan was fired from a north Florida television station in 2000 after threatening fellow employees, a former supervisor said. Parker, an on-air reporter, and Ward, a photographer, were both in romantic relationships with other people at WDBJ7, according to Mike Morgan, who works in the station’s promotions department. Then Marks, his hair disheveled but his emotions in check, put a stop to it, at least in those early, freshly painful moments. “We should probably go back to regular programming now, rather than prolonging this. Wednesday’s on-air murders reverberated far from central Virginia because that’s just what the killer wanted — not just to avenge perceived wrongs, but to gain maximum, viral exposure. After Wednesday’s shootings, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said that video recorded by the station’s camera shows Flanagan holding a weapon.

Because he anchored in the evenings and she working in the mornings, he would make her breakfast and pack her lunch and kiss her goodbye each morning. “She would always text me, we would always be concerned, texting each other when we got to work safely. He used his insider’s knowledge of TV journalism against his victims — a 24-year-old reporter who was a rising star and a 27-year-old cameraman engaged to a producer who watched the slaughter live from the control room. In an age when video of crashes, shootings, fires and other tragedies is readily available and endlessly replayed, it was a decision — albeit it one influenced by personal loss — that other outlets often fail to make and for which they are roundly criticized.

Parker grew up outside of Martinsville, Virginia, according to her biography on the station’s site, and graduated from James Madison University’s School of Media Arts and Design in 2012. And she texted me, ‘Good night, sweet boy’ and that was the last that I had ever heard from her,” Hurst said on Fox. “We can only take some solace in the fact that she had a wonderful life, she was extremely happy, and she loved this guy with all her heart,” he said, referring to Hurst. He sent ABC’s newsroom a 23-page fax two hours after the 6:45 a.m. shooting that was part-manifesto, part-suicide note — calling himself a gay black man who had been mistreated by people of all races, and saying he bought the gun two days after nine black people were killed in a June 17 shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C.

In it, a hand holding a gun is seen behind Ward for several seconds and then squeezes off shots at Parker. “At this point we don’t,” she said Wednesday evening. “We’ll review that as we go. She had tremendous potential to achieve her dreams of reporting on a national stage some day,” said Marilou Johnson, vice provost for academic development at James Madison University, who taught Parker during a fall 2012 course. “It is such a tragedy.” Parker adored spending time with her family, and said in the video that the most thrilling thing she had ever done was go horseback riding down the Grand Canyon with her parents. The Twitter account used to post the video also included the comments “I filmed the shooting see Facebook”, “Adam went to (human resources) on me after working with me one time!!!” and “Alison made racist comments. Ward had been working for the station since July 2011, when he graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in communication and media studies, according to his LinkedIn profile.

No.” Lee Wolverton, managing editor of The Roanoke Times, expressed the newspaper’s sympathy for the victims and its intention to provide complete coverage. Marks said Flanagan alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but that his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated.

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