WDBJ reporter’s father criticizes senators for not calling family

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Despite volatility, on-air rampage difficult to predict.

The husband of the sole survivor of the Virginia shooting which killed WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward during a live television report has come forward to tell her story. Roanoke police had direct contact with on-air shooting gunman Vester Flanagan at least twice after escorting him from the WDBJ-TV station following his firing in February 2013.

The Virginia gunman who executed two of his former colleagues on live television associated himself with the 9/11 attackers in rambling letters found inside his home and getaway car, authorities revealed Friday. “Based on careful scrutiny of those writings and evidence seized from his apartment, it is apparent that [Vester Lee Flanagan II] very closely identified with individuals who have committed domestic acts of violence and mass murder, as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.,” said a statement from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. “Investigators also believe, at this stage of the investigation and based on careful scrutiny of the evidence and numerous interviews with friends, family, former colleagues, and other associates, that Flanagan acted alone and shared his plans with no one,” the statement said. Local commerce representative Vicki Gardner was giving an interview to Parker and Ward at the Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Virigina at about 6.45am Wednesday when Vester Lee Flanagan approached the trio and opened fire. “We would say still like, ‘The reporter is out in the field,’ and he would look at us and say, ‘What are you saying, cotton fields? — The woman who survived the on-air shooting that killed two TV journalists says she never saw the gunman walk up to the group because the camera’s bright light blinded her. Department spokesman Scott Leamon said Friday officers went to Flanagan’s apartment about a year later at the request of a friend in Atlanta who feared for his well-being. His hair-trigger temper directed at a random collection of people he encountered never seemed to stray into the type of violent behavior that would have put him on the radar of police or mental health professionals.

Last December, police questioned Flanagan after he asked his bank to refund money he said had been withdrawn from his account through unauthorized ATM transactions. The first four shots were aimed at Parker, and two more were aimed at Ward, Gardner’s husband Tim said in a telephone interview from the hospital where she is recovering.

Leamon says the police department will conduct a review of its dealings with Flanagan in response to his fatal shooting Wednesday of two WDBJ journalists. WDBJ-TV anchor Chris Hurst says he gave Parker a black onyx ring with some diamonds for her birthday and told her they would save up for an engagement ring and be together forever. “‘You need to go to bed,'” she texted. “And she sent me some kisses, and emoji, and said, ‘Good night, sweet boy’ at 3:26 a.m.

The affidavit also says Dave Seidel, who is the assignment editor at WDBJ, told Virginia State Police that the gunman was Flanagan after reviewing video of the shooting, which occurred live on television. Flanagan, a former reporter at WDBJ, was fired from the station in 2013 for poor performance and conflicts with co-workers, who said he was always claiming to be the victim. After Flanagan wrecked his vehicle on Interstate 66 and shot himself, a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office investigator ran a Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles record on Flanagan to identify his address.

In his last hours before shooting himself to death, Flanagan — using his on-air name, Bryce Williams — posted a grisly video of himself killing Parker and Wade and sent a series of tweets complaining about the two, who often worked together on the station’s morning show. Of Parker, an intern when he was at the station ahead of his February 2013 firing, he complained she had made racist comments; of Ward, he claimed the cameraman went to the station’s HR department after working with him just a single time. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Thomas Faison said Flanagan legally purchased the gun used in the slaying that also wounded a local economic development official, something that couldn’t have happened if he had prior felony convictions or a history of mental health commitments.

The 50 or so workers have been described as a close-knit group, and they have continued reporting on their slain colleagues in the face of the tragedy. “There are too many guns in America and there are clearly too many guns in the wrong hands,” the governor said. Parker’s boyfriend, not yet ready to take a stance on gun laws because he is a journalist, instead remembered the couple’s whitewater kayaking trip just one week ago. “We went past a special place on the river where she turned to me and she said, ‘Chris, this is where I want to get married. Video obtained by NBC News shows a sparsely decorated apartment and a refrigerator plastered with photos of himself, including old class pictures and modeling shots that he also posted on social media. Chris Hurst said Friday that Parker and Vester Flanagan, who used to work at WDBJ-TV, were on an assignment together when Parker remarked that her friend lived on “Cotton Hill Road.” Parker said Flanagan accused her of pointing out the word for racial reasons. Andy Parker said outside of WDBJ-TV on Friday that he supports stronger gun laws and says people at gun shows should have to a background check before they can make purchases.

Mark Sichel, a New York-based psychotherapist and author, said Flanagan was a classic “injustice collector,” a person whose fragile ego leads to paranoid behavior, such as overreacting to perceived slights and creating enemy lists, as a protective mechanism. Sichel said Adam Lanza, who killed 27 people, including 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, fit the profile.

They were killed by a former employee of the station Wednesday as they interviewed Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. In one instance, he wrote a rambling letter to a restaurant, complaining that staff told him “have a nice day” instead of “thank you.” In another, a co-worker at a health insurance company’s call center, Michelle Kibodeaux, 46, said he tried to grab her after she made an innocuous remark about him being unusually quiet one day.

Adam Henning, news director at WAFF-TV in Huntsville, Alabama, said he declined to hire Flanagan in 2011 after checking with people Henning knew at least one other station where Flanagan had worked. Companies often want to know the chances an employee will react violently after being fired, but there is no easy answer because it can take years for anger to reach a boiling point, said Van Zandt, who now works as a consultant. Chris Hurst, a WDBJ-TV anchor who was Parker’s boyfriend, said he and his colleagues wondered in hindsight if there wasn’t more they could have done for Flanagan “to extend him love.” “But he needed, at the time, to be pushed away, because he was not someone who was helping our station and helping our newsroom,” Hurst said. “But I wonder if I had said the right combination of words to him whether that might have tried to light a spark of change.” Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama.

Associated Press writers Larry O’Dell in Richmond, Virginia; Holbrook Mohr in Jackson, Mississippi; and Allen Breed in Roanoke contributed to this report. Mikey Monaghan and her husband, Patrick, say they had reservations about going to CJ’s Coffee and Sandwich Shop on Friday morning because they wanted to be respectful.

The shopping center is right on the lake, and DiGiorgi noted that Gardner, who was shot in the back and is in good condition at a hospital, works right nearby. He says that after the attack, Vicki Gardner got up and walked to the ambulance after being shot, and she didn’t know the extent of her injuries at that point.

Businesses are reopening in Virginia at the scene of this week’s on-air shooting as more details surface of the gunman’s long history of confronting and bullying co-workers at a succession of television and customer-service jobs.

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