Gunman in TV shooting had history of workplace issues

2015-08-27 05:59
In this frame grab from a video posted on Lee Flanagan’s Twitter account and Facebook page, a gun is aimed at Alison Parker over the shoulder of Adam Ward. (AP)

In this frame grab from a video posted on Lee Flanagan’s Twitter account and Facebook page, a gun is aimed at Alison Parker over the shoulder of Adam Ward. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Charleston - The gunman in the shooting deaths of two television journalists in Virginia on Wednesday was a veteran anchorman with a history of workplace grievances who had previously sued a Florida station alleging discrimination because he was black.

While authorities said they had not determined a motive, perceived racism appeared to be a factor in the shootings, according to posts on social media attributed to the shooter and a fax that ABC News said had been sent by the gunman.

Vester Flanagan, 41, who went on the air under the name Bryce Williams, was a former employee of WDBJ7 in Virginia, where both of the slain journalists worked. He shot himself as police pursued him on a Virginia highway hours after the shooting. Flanagan, who was African-American, died later at a hospital, police said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the journalists, who were both white, were shot dead during a live television broadcast.

Hours after the shooting, someone claiming to have filmed it posted video online. The videos were posted to a Twitter account and on Facebook by a man identifying himself as Bryce Williams.

The videos were removed shortly afterward. In one video, a handgun was clearly visible as the person filming approached the female reporter.

Producer had called him a 'monkey'

In the posts on the Twitter feed, he accused one of the victims of "racist comments," and noted that a complaint had been filed with a government agency that enforces discrimination claims.

In a 23-page fax ABC News said was sent two hours after the shooting, he cited as his tipping point the racially motivated shooting that killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this summer.

Saying he had suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work, Flanagan described himself as "a human powder keg," the network said.

Flanagan aired similar grievances in a 2000 lawsuit filed in US federal court against a Florida station, WTWC-TV in Tallahassee. In that suit, he said a producer had called him a "monkey," and he accused a supervisor of calling black people lazy for not taking advantage of college scholarship opportunities.

The Florida case was settled and dismissed, court records show.

One of his former Florida colleagues remembered Flanagan as "quirky," but said he never displayed behavior suggesting he would be capable of such a violent crime.

"He had his idiosyncrasies, a little quirky sometimes," said Michael Walker, the weekend producer at the Tallahassee station when Flanagan was working as a weekend anchor. "It probably wasn't any different than any other on-air personality."

Walker, who is also black, said that he had not experienced discrimination at the station.

Flanagan, who accused the station of terminating his contract because he had filed a report of racism with a state agency, said in the lawsuit he suffered emotional distress and financial losses as a result of his treatment at the station.

The NBC affiliate, which stopped broadcasting newscasts in late 2000, said at the time of the lawsuit that his contract was not renewed due to "corporate belt-tightening," according to an article in the Tallahassee Democrat at that time.

The station confirmed Flanagan's employment for about one year and noted in a statement that his discrimination complaint was dismissed by a government agency and the lawsuit resolved.

Flanagan's 20-year career in journalism included stints at local news stations in San Francisco; Savannah, Georgia; and Midland, Texas, according to his LinkedIn profile. It said he also worked briefly outside of journalism as a customer service representative.

He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1995 with a degree in radio and television, the school confirmed.

According to a Facebook page believed to belong to the suspect, he was originally from Oakland, California, but most recently living in Roanoke, Virginia, where WDBJ7 broadcasts.

There, he gained a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with because of his anger, station manager Jeff Marks said during a live broadcast.

"Vester was an unhappy man," Marks said, adding that he had to be escorted out of the building by police after he was terminated from the station in 2013.

"He did not take that well," he added.

Read more on:    us  |  charleston shooting

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
29 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.