Vester Lee Flanagan was ‘a man with a lot of anger,’ station manager says

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

Vester Lee Flanagan claimed in a suicide note Wednesday that June’s massacre of black parishioners at a South Carolina church was “the tipping point” that sent him on the path to murdering two journalists on live television Wednesday.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. 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.

Flanagan’s arrival at WDBJ, a television station in Roanoke, Va., station executives and rank-and-file employees were deeply concerned about his conduct. After the shooting, ex-journalist Flanagan uploaded chilling first-person video to Twitter and Facebook showing him walking up to the crew and pointing a gun at Parker before firing.

As he raised the firearm at the oblivious news crew, Flanagan appeared to pause until Ward’s camera returned to the interview to ensure the murders would be broadcast live on-air. Ms Parker screamed and ran away as around 15 shots rang out, as the news camera operated by Ward fell to the ground and fleetingly captured an image of an armed Flanagan. 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. It has since been revealed that Flanagan, 41, was a former reporter for WDBJ7 and used the screen name Bryce Williams before he was fired two years ago. 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.

A series of tweets aired grievances the shooter had with his former colleagues and included a host of personal images since seized upon by news outlets. WDBJ7 has confirmed both Parker and Ward died in the shooting, while it is understood Gardner, the woman being interviewed by Parker, was shot in the back and has undergone surgery. 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.

Vester Flanagan, whose on-air name was Bryce Williams, used his smartphone, Facebook and Twitter as it suited his needs at the moment, like a social media-adept vacationer with deadly intent — using them to record and tweet about the shooting death of Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27. As I watched the video –- wishing all the while that I hadn’t found it — I couldn’t stop thinking: Did he shoot it like a video game because he was trying to recreate the violence he’d seen on game console screens? 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. He wanted to chronicle his acts, but if he actually planned to use the phone during his crime, why hadn’t he recorded something in advance to explain his motive, or maybe something at the end to tell the world what he had just done?

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. Flanagan to contact the company’s employee assistance program. “We will continue assisting you with your professional growth and development,” Mr. Flanagan claimed he purchased his gun two days after nine black parishioners were killed in Charleston in June—and that was fighting back in the race war Dylann Roof supposedly wanted to start. “The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily,” Flanagan wrote. “I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!” Flanagan also claimed he was attacked for being a gay black man, and that he suffered bullying, sexual harassment and racial discrimination at work, ABC News reported. “I am hereby requesting a trial which will be heard by a jury of my peers,” he wrote in a letter to the judge. “I would like my jury to be comprised of African-American women.” He also claimed head photographer Lynn Eller was the mastermind of a “carefully orchestrated effort by the photography staff to oust me,” court documents show. “Why did one of the photographers go to HR on me after working with me ONLY ONCE,” Flanagan wrote, in an apparent reference to victim Adam Ward. “There was nothing to report! 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.” His resume detailed a two-decade long career both in and outside journalism since his graduation from San Francisco State University with a broadcasting degree in the early 1990s.

While we can’t say to what extent Flanagan planned his acts (there are reports he sent a lengthy manifesto to media outlets before the murders), I am not convinced he had planned out how he would use social media in advance. 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 I had also seen the live WDBJ7 video shot through Ward’s camera and the scene matched it exactly, except for the perspective behind the cameraman.

Using the same technology that each of us use every day to share our happiest and saddest thoughts, our biggest and most minor accomplishments, Flanagan had an agenda most of us can scarcely comprehend. This distorted use of the technology and the platforms makes me wonder if more of this will seep through as those who’ve become unmoored from society seek a voice and a way to communicate their pain, anger or frustration.

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