It’s been four days since former WDBJ-TV manager Vester Flanagan opened fired on two news reporters on live television. As the public and the victims’ families attempt to come to grips with the reality of what happened, a member of Flanagan’s family spoke out about Flanagan as they tried to understand how the man they once knew could carry out such a horrific act.
Flanagan, who went by the name Bryce Williams when he worked for WDBJ, opened fire on three people on August 26, at the Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Virginia, during a live television broadcast. Reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward were killed during the tragic incident. Another victim, Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed at the time, was shot in the back, but survived.
A relative of Flanagan’s, who wished to remain unknown, recently stated that the distraught former television station manager came from a tight-knit family that didn’t see anything that would make them think he would pull off such a violent crime.
“We are trying to rebuild our lives as much as we can. We don’t know [what happened that could have led to this act].”
Meanwhile, USA Today reports several of Flanagan’s former co-workers remember him as an angry man who interpreted innocent, daily incidents as a form of racism. In addition to perceiving minor things as racial slights, Flanagan had subpar performances at work and numerous behavioral issues that ultimately led to his dismissal from WDBJ in 2013.
General manager of WDBJ, Jeff Marks, said that Flanagan continuously complained, but his complaints were usually unrealistic. For instance, Marks recalled when Flanagan made a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), stating that he was being racially harassed after his boss allegedly made him pass by a road named Cotton Hill Road on purpose.
“Vester was an unhappy man. We employed him as a reporter and he had some talent in that respect and some experience. He quickly gathered a reputation of someone who was difficult to work with. He was sort of looking out to people to say things he could take offense to.”
In addition, Flanagan became upset when he spotted a watermelon at the television station, and took it to mean that his co-workers were discriminating against him, said Marks.
“He accused us of placing it there to send him a message. He had a short fuse. People didn’t enjoy working with him.”
WDBJ supervisors also had issues with Flanagan’s journalistic skills and work ethic. Not only did he use poor judgement skills for news stories, he also didn’t bother to fact check. In fact, when handed a story, Flanagan didn’t investigate it all, Marks recalls.
“He didn’t investigate, he wrote down what people said and repeated it back. He wasn’t thorough.”
When Flanagan was finally fired from his job in 2013, he refused to leave the television station. Authorities were called in to remove him. According to the documents from the Roanoke City General District Court, Ward filmed Flanagan being removed from the building, a procedure he was asked to do so that the company had documentation of the incident. The court documents state that Flanagan, clearly upset over being filmed, started insulting Ward.
“This was being recorded by Adam Ward; [Flanagan] turned his attention to him and said something about paparazzi, told [Ward] he needed to ‘lose your big gut,’ and again flipped the camera off.”
After firing a gun over 15 times, shooting Ward and Parker in the head, then wounding Gardner, Vester Flanagan escaped the scene and drove away at around 6:45 a.m. Authorities spotted him on Interstate 66 at 11:30 a.m and attempted to pull him over, but he sped away and crashed into an embankment. When authorities approached the vehicle, they found Flanagan inside the car, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead shortly after.
[Photos courtesy of Twitter, Jay Paul/Getty Images]