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.
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 Jehovah’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.
SOURCE: CHRIS PLEASANCE, ASHLEY COLLMAN and JOSH GARDNER
Excerpts from the 23-page manifesto faxed to ABC News
A man claiming to be Bryce Williams called ABC News over the last few weeks, saying he wanted to pitch a story and wanted to fax information. He never told ABC News what the story was.
This morning, a fax was in the machine (time stamped 8:26 a.m.) almost two hours after the shooting. A little after 10 a.m., he called again, and introduced himself as Bryce, but also said his legal name was Vester Lee Flanagan, and that he shot two people this morning. While on the phone, he said authorities are “after me,” and “all over the place.” He hung up. ABC News contacted the authorities immediately and provided them with the fax.
In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II. He writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:
“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…”
Sources say Flanagan’s firearm was legally purchased from a Virginia gun store.
“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.
Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “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.'”
Sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC News that in his attack, Flanagan used a Glock 19 — a firearm similar to one that Cho used in his mass attack.
In Flanagan’s often rambling letter to authorities, family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Flanagan calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family.”
- He says he has been attacked by black men and white females
- He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man
- He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work
A source with direct knowledge of his complaints against the station said a pair of tweets sent today and attributed to him accurately reflect previous complaints he lodged against the two people he killed today. These are the two Tweets: “Alison made racist comments,” and, “Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!”
SOURCE: PIERRE THOMAS, JACK CLOHERTY, JACK DATE and MIKE LEVINE