Suspect in Virginia Shooting of News Team Commits Suicide

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Virginia TV shooter Vester Lee Flanagan was a ‘disturbed’ and ‘unhappy man’.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were slain Wednesday doing what they love, gunned down by a disgruntled former reporter they once worked with at WDBJ-TV.When Dylann Roof gunned down nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church in June, investigators later discovered a racist manifesto posted online.Vester Lee Flanagan was a popular teenager, a model for Macy’s department store as a young man, and appeared to be a successful reporter at local television news stations in California and across the American south. After Mark Lavoie shot and killed his wife in a New Hampshire hospital bed in January, then turned the gun on himself, police found a Facebook post in which Lavoie warned of his actions.

But away from the studio lights, his journalism career was troubled, marked by office disputes and legal complaints he filed that alleged racism at newsrooms in Tallahassee, Florida, in 2000 and in Virginia last year. That’s usually how it goes — authorities are left to comb the Internet for clues about a suspect’s motive once a tragic event has already unfolded. According to police, on Wednesday, Flanagan, 41, carried out a deadly attack on two television journalists with WDBJ7, a CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia, where he once worked. Parker said in a promotional video for the station that the “most thrilling” thing she has ever done was take a trip to the Grand Canyon with her family and ride horseback down the canyon. In an age when people mount GoPros on their ski helmets, take selfies on roller coasters, and live tweet their weddings, why wouldn’t criminals document themselves in the act? “Social media is going to carry over into every aspect of our lives,” said Janet Johnson, a social media specialist at the University of Texas at Dallas. “We cannot prevent criminals from using it.” Flanagan, a 41-year-old former news anchor who had worked with the victims at WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, seemed more interested in attracting an audience than getting away with murder.

Officials said on Wednesday that ABC News had received a document, which ABC reported was a 23-page fax from someone purporting to be Bryce Williams, Flanagan’s onscreen pseudonym, about two hours after the attack. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting,” he reportedly wrote, adding that he had paid a deposit for a gun two days after the church shootings. As their once shared workplace grieves for Parker and Ward, a preliminary portrait has emerged of an easily agitated employee who accused co-workers in at least two newsrooms of making racist comments. Robert Denton, head of the communications department at Virginia Tech, said he handed Ward his diploma when he graduated from the Blacksburg school in 2011. In another, he claimed that “Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!” Flanagan shot himself later Wednesday morning, as police pursued him on Interstate 66. Twitter and Facebook suspended Flanagan’s accounts, but not before the video and messages were widely viewed and republished elsewhere on the Internet.

But she also had a less-serious side: Her Facebook feed was punctuated with funny videos and photos of her smiling, ear-to-ear, often while on assignment with Ward. “My grief is unbearable,” he said. “Is this real? A Twitter spokesman said “we don’t comment on individual accounts,” and declined to answer general questions about account management in manhunt situations. But in a fast-moving case, such as Wednesday’s shooting and subsequent chase, the responsibilities of social networks are unsettled. “In an ongoing crisis situation, I imagine that social media providers would assist law enforcement to help deescalate or mitigate harm,” Citron said. “Of course, that does not mean social media would help without proper legal process, like a warrant.” The lawsuit made several claims, including that in the summer of 1999 he had been called a “monkey” by a producer and learned other black employees had been called the same. Flanagan alleged that later that year a white employee told him it “busted her butt that blacks did not take advantage of the free money” available in scholarships to African Americans attending college.

He further alleged that a black criminal suspect being reported on by the station was referred to as “just another thug” and that a black tape operator was told to “stop talking ebonics”. After being dismissed from the Florida station, Flanagan made a career change, working as a customer service representative in the fraud investigations unit at Bank of America and then at Pacific Gas and Electric Company before returning to television news, according to his LinkedIn Profile. He then joined a newsroom in North Carolina, and stayed for just two years before again leaving journalism to work for more than seven years as a communications director at the Sacramento-based company NDG Interactive, according to LinkedIn. In a statement at the time, Daniel Dennison, the station’s news director, hailed him as a veteran reporter “with an enormous scope of experience” and described his recruitment as “a testament to the quality and professionalism” of their team.

In 2004, he was charged with driving with an altered or revoked driver’s licence and having no registration on his vehicle in Pitt County, North Carolina, according to court records. On a Facebook page that appears to have been run by the gunman under the pseudonym Bryce Williams, Flanagan appears to have uploaded several silent video recordings of stories on which he worked, including one that shows him in a store holding a weapon.

When troopers approached the car they found a man believed to be the suspect suffering from a gunshot wound. “This gentleman was disturbed at some way at the way things had transpired in his life,” Franklin County sheriff Bill Overton said at a news conference.

Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site