The cold-blooded Roanoke killer kept getting fired, kept threatening co-workers, and kept claiming he was the real victim.
Vester Lee Flanagan claimed in a suicide note Wednesday that June’s massacre of black parishioners at a South Carolina church was “the tipping point” that sent him on the path to murdering two journalists on live television Wednesday.
But in court papers and interviews with The Daily Beast, former colleagues describe Flanagan as a problematic employee, who was repeatedly reprimanded for his harsh treatment of coworkers, and complained that racism was behind harsh evaluations of his work.
“He just had a history of playing the race card,” former WTWC anchor Dave Leval told The Daily Beast. “I know he did that in Tallahassee a couple of times…”
The day Flanagan was fired from a Virginia TV station in 2013, his bosses called 911 because of his volatile behavior—an incident captured on camera by Adam Ward, a man who would later become one of his victims.
At a February 2013 meeting, managers at WDBJ7 in Roanoke told Flanagan he wasn’t a good fit and would be terminated. Flanagan became “agitated” before issuing a threat, one boss recalled in court papers.
“I’m not leaving,” fumed Flanagan, who went by “Bryce Williams” on air. “You’re going to have to call the fucking police. Call the police, I’m not leaving. I’m going to make a stink and it’s going to be in the headlines.”
One former manager, Dan Dennison, said Flanagan terrified employees so much they took shelter in a locked office.
“He repeated… his feeling that firing him would lead to negative consequences for me personally and for the station,” Dennison said, according to a statement in a racial discrimination lawsuit Flanagan filed in 2014, which was dismissed.
The disgruntled newsman handed Dennison a small wooden cross and warned him, “You’ll need this.”
But no one could guess that two years after he was fired, Flanagan would shoot two other journalists at his former TV station.
Shortly after 7 a.m., Flanagan approached Ward and reporter Alison Parker from behind at a local park while they were interviewing Vicki Gardner of the local chamber of commerce. Dressed in black, Flanagan drew a camera phone and a gun, and started shooting.
Ward was hit first, but managed to raise his camera for a final look at Flanagan before dying. Parker tried to run but was shot dead. Gardner was shot but survived and is now in stable condition.
Source: The Daily Beast | Katie Zavadski / Kate Briquelet