News broke fast and furious yesterday morning after two journalists were shot to death in the midst of interviewing a business owner. The murderer? Vester Lee Flanagan II, a former colleague who had been fired from the WDBJ7 station two years ago. What drove Vester Flanagan to murder the young journalistic team of Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27?
Vicki Gardner, the woman being interviewed, also sustained serious injuries, which required emergency surgery.
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) August 27, 2015
Vester Flanagan was better known to those who watched him on television as Bryce Williams. Two years ago, Vester had been fired from WDBJ7 due to anger problems and being a difficult employee and colleague, reports NBC News. Vester Flanagan worked at WDBJ7 less than one year, and during that time, he received several emails and letters regarding his explosive anger. Vester Flanagan was warned that his employment would be terminated if he did not curb his angry outbursts. The station even went so far as suggesting Flanagan seek medical help. When all these attempts to give him a chance to change his demeanor failed, Vester Flanagan was finally fired. According to BBC News, the general manager of WDBJ7, Jeffrey Marks, said Vester Flanagan was an unhappy person who seemed to watch for comments or actions at which he could take offense.
“Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. He did not take that well.”
And yet he waited for two years before retaliating? While Vester Flanagan did claim that one of the journalists had made racist comments, and the other had turned him into human resources, the shooter claims the true motivation behind the shootings is due to the racism surrounding the church shooting in Charleston in June.
“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…
What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.
The church shooting was the tipping point … but my anger has been building steadily… I’ve been a human powder keg for a while … just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
In a 23-page manifesto faxed to ABC News just after the shootings, Vester Lee Flanagan identifies himself by his legal name, as well as Bryce Williams. Vester Flanagan states quite clearly his admiration for previous mass shooters in general, not just those involved in racial conflict.
“Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got … just sayin.”
Seung Hui Cho was behind the mass killing of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 13 people and injured 20 at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. In both instances, the shooters committed suicide. However, neither mass killing was motivated by racism.
Police say the suspect in the live TV killings was “spiraling out of control” http://t.co/rIFgiIvBLH
— Variety (@Variety) August 26, 2015
The Guardian notes that racial tension was not a problem at WDBJ7. The fact that Vester Flanagan claimed he endured racial slurs is puzzling to station employees. Pamela Mack-Brown, an African-American woman who worked at WDBJ7 as a production coordinator for 16 years before retiring, said the station personnel were close and had a good working relationship.
“There was no tension. No racial issues. We were like family. That’s all.”
Vester Lee Flanagan shot himself following a police chase, and later died in the hospital.
[Image credit: Jay Paul / Getty Images]