Revenge race murder: Bitter black reporter gunned down white ex-colleagues live on air, posts video online
Revenge race murder: Bitter black reporter gunned down white ex-colleagues live on air, posts video online
A man who was fired from his job as a television reporter two years ago took revenge against the small-town Virginia news station by executing two of his former coworkers on live television, and then posting disturbing first-person video of the attack on social media.
Viewers of WDBJ, a CBS affiliate in Moneta, Virginia, watched in horror this morning as Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, shot dead 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, on live TV as the two were filming a light-hearted segment at 6:45am.
After carrying out the shocking on-air execution, Ward fled and posted video of the attack on social media while also writing about his grudges against the two young journalists in a Twitter rant.
He also faxed a 23-page manifesto-cum-suicide note to a national news station outlining his motives for the attack, saying he bought the handgun he used following the Charleston Church killings, adding: ‘my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them’.
Five hours later, police cornered Flanagan a three hours drive northeast in Fauquier County, Virginia where he shot himself in an attempt to commit suicide. Flanagan initially survived the gunshot wound, but died not long after at approximately 1:30pm
Just before 7am Wednesday morning, Ward was filming Parker as she interviewed Vicki Gardner, with the local chamber of commerce, about an upcoming event to mark the fiftieth anniverary of Smith Lake.
The two were chatting about how the event would benefit the community when eight gunshots ring out and a look of terror sweeps across Parker’s face.
The women left off screams and attempt to flee before the camera falls to the floor, and a man dressed in all black is seen leveling a gun at Ward.
All of this played out as locals watched the interview live from their homes. When the producer finally cut the feed to the murder scene, the anchor sitting at the desk back in the studio was speechless.
WDBJ’s general manager later came on the air to confirm their deaths: ‘It’s my very very sad duty to report… that Alison and Adam died this morning.’
Meanwhile, Flanagan was already making his way out of Moneta. It’s believed that he first went to a nearby airport where he switched cars with a rental he had waiting and then started driving east towards the Washington, DC area.
All morning, alerts went out across western Virginia, warning that the gunman was on the loose and authorities said they were ‘right behind him’.
However, it wasn’t until five hours later that he was finally brought to a stop in Fauquier County, Virginia, about a three hours drive northeast of MOneta – just before noon.
Reports first stated that Flanagan had committed suicide, but authorities changed their statement to say that he was still alive. Nevertheless, he passed away around 1:30pm at a hospital in northern Virginia.
Before he was caught by police, Flanagan took to Twitter to explain his reasons for killing his former coworkers.
Flanagan, who is African American, wrote that Parker made ‘racist comments’ and that a complaint was filed against her through the equal employment opportunity commission, but his station chose to hire her anyway.
As for Ward, Flanagan says that after working with the cameraman once, Ward complained to HR about the former general assignment reporter. It’s unclear what – if anything – happened between the two men.
This afternoon it has been revealed that Flanagan was believed to be living in an apartment in Roanoak, just a few blocks away from the headquarters of WDBJ, before carrying out the shooting earlier today.
Police have been seen removing items from the apartment this afternoon, while reporters at the scene have been told to leave.
It has also been revealed that after being fired from his job reporting for WDBJ Flanagan took up work at a UnitedHealthcare call center, where he worked until November 2014. It is not known why he left the job.
But the most shocking post of all was a video Flanagan took of the attack, which he shared on his Twitter and Facebook.The chilling clip is taken from Flanagan’s point of view and shows him approaching the two journalists as they were interviewing Vicki Gardner, the local chamber of commerce.
He opens fire first on Ward and then turns to kill Parker, who is seen running away in fear. Parker and Ward died at the scene while Gardner was rushed to Roanoke Memorial Hospital for emergency surgery and is now in stable condition.
After posting the graphic video of the attack, Flanagan’s Twitter account was suspended.
Flanagan also allegedly contacted ABC News after the attack, sending the news network a 23-page document elaborating on his motivations, saying he wanted revenge for the Charleston church shooting and was inspired by infamous mass shooters.
ABC says a man by the name of Bryce Williams first contacted them a few weeks ago, wanting to pitch a story but he wouldn’t say what it was about.
This morning, that same man contacted them again, sending them a fax two hours after the shooting.
In the fax, described as a suicide note to friends and family, Flanagan says he became angered after the Charleston church killings and praised Virginia Tech shooter Seung–Hui Cho as ‘my boy’.
Flanagan, who was raised as a Jehova’s witness in California, also said Jehovah made him act.
‘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.’
‘As for Dylann Roof? You [redacted]! You want a race war [redacted]? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …[redacted]!!!”
At the same time, he professes a deep respect for other mass shooters like Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho.
‘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’.
He goes on to say that he has faced both racial and sexual discrimination as a black, gay man and that he was just waiting to explode.
‘Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace…’
‘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!!!!’
At one point in the manifesto he even confesses to killing his cats in a forest close to where he lives, blaming the news station for the animals’ deaths.
Flanagan previously worked as a multimedia and general assignment reporter at WDBJ, before he was fired two years ago.
When he was fired from WDBJ in 2013, he had to be escorted out of the building by local police ‘because he was not going to leave willingly or under his own free will,’ the station’s former news director, Dan Dennison, said in an interview with a Hawaii station, Hawaii News Now (KHNL/KGMB).
Flanagan, 41, had ‘a long series of complaints against co-workers nearly from the beginning of employment at the TV station,’ said Dennison, now an official with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
‘All of these allegations were deemed to be unfounded. And they were largely under along racial lines, and we did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man.’
According to the station, the situation got so bad he was asked to contact employee healthcare over fears for his mental stability.
The conflict described by Dennison in many ways echoed another, in 2000, when Flanagan was fired from a north Florida television station after threatening fellow employees, a former supervisor said.
Flanagan then sued the station over allegations of race discrimination, claiming that a producer called him a ‘monkey’ in 1999 and that other black employees had been called the same name by other workers.
Flanagan also claimed that an unnamed white supervisor at the station said black people were lazy because they did not take advantage of scholarships to attend college. The parties later reached a settlement.
Flanagan ‘was a good on-air performer, a pretty good reporter and then things started getting a little strange with him,’ Don Shafer, the former news director of Florida’s WTWC-TV said Wednesday in an interview broadcast on Shafer’s current employer, San Diego 6 The CW.
Shafer said managers at the Florida station fired Flanagan because of his ‘bizarre behavior.’
‘He threatened to punch people out and he was kind of running fairly roughshod over other people in the newsroom,’ said Shafer, who did not immediately return a call for comment.
Court documents seen by Dailymail.com reveal that Flanagan was repeatedly reprimanded for his unprofessional conduct, scored low on performance reviews for his ‘nervous’ on-air delivery, and was nicknamed the ‘human tape recorder’ for his tendency to parrot what interviewee told him, or read press releases unedited.
Flanagan was also once reprimanded by WDBJ editors for wearing an Obama campaign sticker on his jacket while reporting from an election booth in 2012, saying it ‘demonstrated a basic lack of understanding of your role as an on-air journalist’ and was a clear breach of impartiality rules.
Before and after his work in Florida, Flanagan, who also appeared on-air using the name Bryce Williams, worked at a series of stations around the country, sometimes for just a few months at a time.
They included a stint in 1996 at KPIX, a San Francisco station, where a spokeswoman confirmed he worked as freelance production assistant. From 2002 to 2004, he worked as a reporter and anchor at WNCT-TV in Greensboro, N.C., general manager and vice president John Lewis said.
Neither knew or worked with Flanagan and said they could not answer questions about his departure from jobs at their stations.
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have spoken out since the tragic shooting this morning, calling for tighter gun controls, with the President adding: ‘It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kids of incidents.’
Both Parker and Ward were in relationships with other employees at the news station. Ward was engaged to Melissa Ott, a news producer who was working on the show that morning and watched from the control room as the shooting happened.
It was Ott’s last day on the job. She was about to start a new job in Charlotte, North Carolina and Ward planned to move with her. The crew had a party earlier that morning to celebrate her last day.
Solina Lewis, who described herself as a friend of Ott, spoke highly of Ward in a statement to Breaking911.
‘He was an incredible person, a great journalist and would have been a great father and husband,’ Lewis said.
‘He was sweet, hard working, he came over to my apartment and put furniture together for me without Melissa even there. Even though he had to get up for work and do the early morning live shot the next day.’
Parker’s boyfriend of nine months was WDBJ public safety and mental health reporter Chris Hurst, 28.
The couple had just moved in together. Hurst took to Twitter to convey his unfathomable pain: ‘It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married.We just celebrated her 24th birthday,’ he wrote.
Hurst only revealed the relationship to viewers after the tragedy.
‘We didn’t share this publicly, but [Alison] and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb.’
Parker’s family have also paid tribute to her this afternoon, saying: ‘Today we received news that no family should ever hear. Our vivacious, ambitious, smart, engaging, hilarious, beautiful, and immensely talented Alison (was) taken from the world. This is senseless and our family is crushed.’
According to her bio at WDBJ7.com, Parker was the station’s morning reporter. A local girl, Parker had spent much of her life outside Martinsville, about an hour from where she was tragically gunned down Wednesday.
Prior to her time at WDBJ, Parker worked near the Marine base Camp Lejeune for the Jacksonville, North Carolina bureau of WCTI.
She graduated from James Madison University just three years ago. While there, she interned at the local ABC/Fox affiliate and was news editor for her university’s nationally recognized newspaper, The Breeze.
According to her station biography, she says she liked to whitewater kayak, play with her parents’ dog Jack and attend community theater events.
‘She was so enthusiastic and she was doing what she loved,’ Deon Guillory, a reporter who had Parker as an intern in college, told CNN. ‘She was living her dream.’
Photographer Ward was a Virginia Tech graduate who attended high school in Salem, less than an hour from the scene of his murder.
The two Virginia natives often worked together on WDBJ stories and started off at the station as interns.
In April, they traveled together to Appomattox for the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. In February, the station posted photos of the duo to Facebook as they dressed up as bride and groom at a local bridal store.
‘Adam was a delightful person. He worked hard – you could tell he loved what he was doing,’ Robert Denton, who taught Ward at Virginia Tech University, said.
However, another reporter at WDBJ said Ward recently told her that he was looking into getting out of news and switching careers.