Two Roanoke journalists killed on live television by angry former colleague

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adam Ward’s Producer Fiancee Had to Watch His Death From Control Room.

In March 2012, Vester Lee Flanagan achieved what he had been seeking: a return to television news after a long hiatus. Adam Ward, the WDBJ-TV cameraman who was murdered alongside journalist Alison Parker on Wednesday, Aug. 26, was engaged to a producer at the station named Melissa Ott, who had to watch his tragic death from the control room after former employee Vester Flanagan allegedly shot and killed him.They were both early in their careers, in a business that’s really tough to get into, no doubt proud of what they had done so far and full of hope for what lay ahead.

“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.HE planned it all so carefully — a choreographed execution of two former colleagues, broadcast live to a horrified television audience, and also recorded by him and then shared worldwide across social media.

But in court papers and interviews with The Daily Beast, former colleagues describe Flanagan as a problematic employee, who was repeatedly reprimanded for his harsh treatment of coworkers, and complained racism was behind harsh evaluations of his work. “He just had a history of playing the race card,” former WTWC anchor Dave Leval told The Daily Beast. “I know he did that in Tallahassee a couple of times….” The day Flanagan was fired from a Virginia TV station in 2013, his bosses called 911 because of his volatile behavior—an incident captured on camera by Adam Ward, a man who would later become one of his victims. According to NBC Philadelphia, Ott and Ward had planned on heading to Charlotte, N.C., for Ott’s new job. “We were celebrating that,” anchor Kimberly McBroom said on air, referring to a photo of Ott from earlier in the day McBroom posted on Facebook. “Alison had brought in balloons, I had brought in a cake, it was a day of celebration.” “We didn’t share this publicly, but Alison Parker and I were very much in love. I’ve had people shout abuse during crosses, toot horns, throw things — even swing a punch (stopped by a cameraman with lightening reflexes) And then there are the creatures with room temperature IQ who think it’s amusing to assault reporters -usually female ones — with the words “F*** her in the p…..” For them, there should be a special place in hell. 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. Flanagan’s arrival at WDBJ, a television station in Roanoke, Va., station executives and rank-and-file employees were deeply concerned about his conduct.

The reasons why it happened will be come clearer perhaps, but what’s already blindingly obvious is that is what happens all too often in a place where guns are too readily available. 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. 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. But in the back of our minds will be a question: while I’m talking to you, thinking of the words I need to say to get this story across to you at this very moment .

But the original video was quickly shared several hundred times on Twitter and Facebook, which meant the video began to automatically play in some feeds of users who didn’t choose to see it. I’m going to make a stink and it’s going to be in the headlines.” “He repeated … his feeling that firing him would lead to negative consequences for me personally and for the station,” Dennison said, according to a statement in a racial discrimination lawsuit Flanagan filed in 2014, which was dismissed. 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. Shortly after 7 a.m., Flanagan approached Ward and reporter Alison Parker from behind at a local park while they were interviewing Vicki Gardner of the local chamber of commerce. 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.

Last night’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 in a memorandum, “resulted in one or more of your co-workers feeling threatened or uncomfortable,” the documents showed. “We want you to work on the tone of your interpersonal relationships and exercise great care in dealing with stressful situations or disagreements and your response to them,” the executive, Dan Dennison, wrote. “You need to always work as a member of a collaborative team and allow your teammates to do their jobs and not assume that you alone are concerned with high quality standards.” At the time, Mr. Former neighbor Tandy Amburgey said Gardner always greeting people with a hug and would not want Smith Mountain Lake’s reputation to be tarnished by the shooting.

The 56-second video shows him approaching the two journalists, waiting until they were live, then pointing and shooting at Alison Parker, the on air reporter. He said that police in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she had her first full-time job would give her scoops because she showed herself to be trustworthy. Facebook said it removed a profile and page created by the suspect for “violating our community standards.” Those rules state that Facebook prohibits “celebrating any crimes you’ve committed.” A Google spokeswoman said: “YouTube has clear policies against videos of gratuitous violence and we remove them when they’re flagged.” Battling violent content is a common occurrence for these companies.

He was transported to a hospital, where he later died. “Vester was an unhappy man,” Marks said, adding, “when he was hired here, he quickly gathered a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with. He was sort of looking out for people to say things that he could take offense to.” Flanagan also filed an employment discrimination suit against a Tallahassee, Florida, station where he worked from 1999 to 2000, (That case was settled out of court.) According to one news report, Flanagan said he and another black employee were called “monkeys” and claimed a supervisor once said, “blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money” for scholarships and other opportunities. Don Shafer, Flanagan’s former boss at WTWC in Tallahassee, called Flanagan a “pretty good reporter” but said “things started getting a little strange with him.” “We ended up having to terminate his contract and let him go for bizarre behavior and fighting with other employees,” Shafer said on San Diego 6, where he now serves as news director. The video of the shooting was removed within minutes of its posting, while suspending an ISIS account that posted images of photojournalist James Foley’s execution last August took several hours. The health insurer UnitedHealthcare says that the gunman in the fatal on-air shooting of two journalists worked as a call center employee in Virginia for more than a year, leaving in November 2014.

Schools in the area were put on lockdown with roads closed while officers from Bedford, Franklin County, Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries conducted the manhunt. 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”. He abandoned the car there and picked up an airport rental, a Chevrolet Sonic, that was later spotted on I-66 by a police patrol car at around 11.30am local time. Speed matters because the longer the content remains visible, the ability to contain it becomes more hopeless as people share and repost it on other sites.

Flanagan to contact the company’s employee assistance program. “We will continue assisting you with your professional growth and development,” Mr. That, Your honor, is just plain wrong.” In further documents, he alleges that two station employees behaved in an inappropriate and threatening manner to him—with one of them “holding a sharp object (a pen) which could have been used as a weapon.” “I’m not trying to be an asshole, but the shaky video isn’t going to work.” Flanagan then allegedly turned to an interview subject and said, “I’m sorry sir, the footage he just shot is completely unusable.” In a performance review one month later, Flanagan scored a 1 out of 5 in the category of “works well together with photographer, producer and assignment editor;” he scored 3s on evaluations about delivering news “in an understandable manner” and “covering beat and enterprising stories.” “While this is the first incident of this nature, and we trust the last, you need to quickly and diligently move from the category of an employee who commits misstep after misstep to the kind of problem-free employee we hope you can become,” Dennison wrote in a letter to Flanagan. In an alarming 23-page suicide note to ABC News, the disgruntled former employee claimed to have carried out the shooting in response to the Charleston church shooting on June 17. Among the missteps that led to this admonition was his decision to cover a local creamery over the governor’s comments on gun control after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. “I had a better chance of winning the lottery before I thought he’d do something crazy like this,” Dean added. “All I can do is pray for the victims and pray for his family.” 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.

The large apartment complex is in Roanoke, a few blocks from the station for WDBJ-TV, where Vester Flanagan once worked with the reporter and cameraman authorities say he killed Wednesday morning. Some other clips were pulled with a message stating the video was removed because of its “shocking and disgusting content.” Video has become a greater focal point for social media companies as they continue to compete for user attention with ever more compelling content. Dennison wrote a memorandum that detailed what he described as “recent examples of lack of thorough reporting, poor on-air performance or time management issues.” As the winter wore on, station officials decided to fire Mr. But the emergence of the auto-play video feature, as well as the rise of mobile live streaming has raised the stakes, bringing unvarnished tragedy and horrifying violence to smartphones with ease.

The case was later dismissed. “Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him,” Marks said. “And he did not take that well. On Twitter he alleged that Parker specifically had made “racist comments”. “EEOC report filed,” Flanagan wrote. “They hired her after that???” In a separate tweet, he added: “Adam went to [human resources] after working with me one time!!!” Asked to confirm Flanagan’s claim, a spokeswoman for the EEOC said: “With respect to the individual you mention, we cannot confirm that a complaint has been filed with the EEOC because of Title 7 confidentiality provisions. More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader.

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. US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said she was “heartbroken” by the killings which were more proof that America “must act to stop gun violence”. White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said these sort of events were becoming “all too common” in America and renewed calls for US Congress to introduce legislation to curb access to guns.

When troopers approached the car they found a man they identified as the suspect suffering from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “This gentleman was disturbed in some way at the way things had transpired in his life,” Franklin County sheriff Bill Overton said at a news conference. ABC News reports that a man using the name Bryce Williams called the network in the past few weeks asking to pitch a story and wanting to fax information. The fiancee of the cameraman killed during a live broadcast outside a Virginia shopping mall was marking her last day at the TV station before moving on to a job at another station. 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.

Video of two TV station employees fatally shot on-air early Wednesday shows a fleeting image of a man in black pants and a blue top pointing a gun at the station’s camera.

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