Slain Journalist’s Father Says of Shooter: ‘He Was a Crazy Man With a Gun’

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Father of WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker likens video of slaying to terrorism as colleagues mourn shocking death.

And now you have one more thing to worry about, one more thing gnawing at the back of your head, and it’s not whether someone will sneak behind you and flip the bird at the camera. In this framegrab from video posted on Bryce Williams’ Twitter account and Facebook page, Williams, whose real name is Vester Lee Flanagan II, aims a gun at television reporter Alison Parker as she conducts a live on-air interview. (Vester Lee Flanagan II/Twitter via AP) But Wednesday was like no other for the crime reporter — indeed, for the entire local TV station — after the shocking and brutal murder at gunpoint of two beloved colleagues during a live telecast. “I’ve been out of the mix today,” confessed Maeser outside WDBJ’s studios in Roanoke, press credentials dangling from her neck, dark sunglasses concealing the tears swelling in her eyes.

ROANOKE, Va. (CBSDC) — He planned it all so carefully — a choreographed execution of two former colleagues, broadcast live to a horrified television audience.Both families were in grief Wednesday after Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were killed in the most unimaginable way — live and on air — by a disgruntled former co-worker, who recorded a first-person video of the shooting from his own twisted perspective.

He was a fired television reporter with a history of conflicts at work and his rage apparently stoked by racial grievances, from the Charleston church shooting to his claims that he faced discrimination. Maeser told AFP she was just rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn when she got an unexpected telephone call from her news director, telling her to hurry into work immediately. After the shooting Flanagan sent out a series of tweets alleging that Alison had been racist towards him in the past and that Adam had previously complained about him to HR. And when he sought revenge Wednesday, gunning down two employees from his former station, he used the tools of an oversharing age, ensuring his crime was broadcast live, video recorded from multiple angles and posted on social media.

Mr Marks described him as ‘an unhappy man’ and ‘difficult to work with’, always ‘looking out for people to say things he could take offence to’. Marks, a newsman with 42 years experience, was suddenly thrust into the role of father figure to his news team and his audience, now stretching the nation, trying to explain the unthinkable.

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. As the chase for him was on, he wrote about the shooting on Twitter, uploaded his video to Facebook and sent a manifesto to ABC News that spoke admiringly of mass killers and said that as a black, gay man he had faced discrimination and sexual harassment. Outside the studio gates, dozens of WDBJ viewers solemnly converged before sunset to place bouquets of flowers and shiny remembrance balloons under a tree wrapped with two black mourning ribbons. They say Williams filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) against Ms Parker, and that Mr Ward had reported Williams to human resources. Parker and Ward were the youthful, energetic and ambitious early morning reporting duo at WDBJ, a CBS affiliate that covers mainly rural southern Virginia with an editorial staff of about 50.

Mr Marks said Williams alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but said his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated. Ott was in the control room and witnessed her fiance’s death in shock — and as a fellow New Jersey native and close friend, it fell on Maeser to console her throughout the day. “I was supposed to be at their wedding. 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. They were set to get married next summer in Charleston, South Carolina,” she added, choking back tears. “She had this energy about her, on the air and off,” he added, standing alongside his tripod-mounted live video camera as WDBJ began its evening newscast. I am numb,” Hurst tweeted Wednesday morning. “I remember her always coming in with a smile, ready to get started for the day,” said Paulette Simington, principal of Martinsville High School, where Parker graduated. “She was one of those kids who kind of just sparked, she had a sparkle about her.

I still see the little girl in her, even in the grown woman that was doing phenomenal things.” Parker said she adored spending time with her family, and said in the video that the most thrilling thing she had ever done was going horseback riding down the Grand Canyon with her parents. “Some journalists want to be right out there covering ISIL. 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. Flanagan’s planning may have started weeks ago when, ABC News said, a man claiming to be Bryce Williams called repeatedly, saying he wanted to pitch a story and needed fax information.

The fax also included admiration for the gunmen in mass killings at places like Virginia Tech and Columbine High School in Colorado. “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 said. Police officers followed Flanagan, driving a rental car, and troopers tried to pull him over shortly before 11:30 a.m. in northern Virginia’s Fauquier County, but he sped away and crashed. Dan Dennison, now a state government spokesman in Hawaii, was the WDBJ news director who hired Flanagan in 2012 and fired him in 2013, largely for performance issues, he said. “We did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man,” Dennison said. “You just never know when you’re going to work how a potentially unhinged or unsettled person might impact your life in such a tragic way.” Court records and recollections from former colleagues at a half-dozen other small-market stations where he bounced around indicate that Flanagan was quick to file complaints.

She said Wednesday that “he didn’t laugh at our jokes or at himself when he would make a mistake.” Wilmoth describes Flanagan as a loner who didn’t socialize with other reporters. He also claimed that an unnamed white supervisor at the station said black people were lazy because they did not take advantage of scholarships to attend college. The station generally denied the allegations of discrimination and said it had legitimate reasons for ending Flanagan’s employment, including poor performance, misbehavior with regard to co-workers, refusal to follow directions, use of profanity and budgetary reasons. He said he and his staff covered the story despite their grief, to honor their slain colleagues. “Our hearts are broken,” he said. “Our sympathy goes to the entire staff here, but also the parents and family of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were just out doing their job today.” (TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries.

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