The fired Virginia reporter who claimed responsibility for the on-air slayings of his colleague and her cameraman had a track record of claiming racism in the workplace and wrote a 23-page manifesto that called the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting the final straw before he bought a gun
In the letter sent to ABC News two hours after the shooting, Vester Lee Flanagan II--who was raised a Jehovah's Witness in California--details his sinister reasoning for Wednesday's slayings.
Dylann Roof, the Virginia Tech shooter, Columbine and Jehovah himself all factored in, he wrote.
'As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!' he wrote in his final screed.
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Vester Lee Flanagan, the 41-year-old suspect in the on-air slayings of a Virginia TV reporter and her cameraman, had a track record of claiming racism in the workplace
'Alison made racist comments,' he insisted on Twitter, as police pursued him down a Virginia highway. Parker was an intern at the station before being hired full time
Just two days after the tragedy in Charleston, Flanagan bought a gun, he said.
'What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims' initials on them.'
A little over three months later, Alison Parker and Adam Ward would be killed--slaughtered on live TV outside Roanoke.
Flanagan also mentions the Virginia Tech mass shooter Seung Hui Cho.
He calls the madman 'his boy' while also applauding 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.'
Also in the letter, which he at one point refers to as his 'Suicide Note for Friends and Family', Flanagan lists grievances including racial discrimination at work as well as sexual harassment and bullying.
He writes that he's been attacked by black men and white women as he discusses the difficulties of going through life as a gay man of color.
While Flanagan says the Charleston shootings were the tipping point for him, it's clear he's been unwell for some time--and he admits as much.
'My anger has been building steadily...I've been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!'
Hours after he sent ABC News the fax, Flanagan reached out again, this time by phone.
He told them he'd killed two people that morning and that the cops were after him and 'all over the place.'
'This gentleman was disturbed at way things had turned out at some point in his life. Things were spiraling out of control,' Franklin County Sheriff W.Q. 'Bill' Overton Jr. later said at a news conference.
According to Fox, the president and general manager at WDBJ said '[Vester] was a difficult person for a lot of people to work with'
Flanagan, who went by Bryce Williams on the air, sued a North Florida station in 2000 claiming one of his bosses called him a 'monkey,' among other offenses.
Before he killed Parker and Ward, Flanagan accused Parker of being racist as the horrific crime played out in real time.
'Alison made racist comments,' he insisted on Twitter, as police pursued him down a Virginia highway.
'They hired her after that???'
Jeffrey Marks, WDBJ's president and general manager, said Flanagan had to be escorted by police out of the station when he was fired. Marks described him as 'an unhappy man' and 'difficult to work with,' always 'looking out for people to say things he could take offense to.'
'Eventually after many incidents of his anger...we dismissed him. He did not take that well,' Marks explained.
Marks said Flanagan alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but said his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated.
'We think they were fabricated,' Marks said.
WDBJ's former news director agreed with Marks' account of Flanagan's last day at the station. er his own free will' Dan Dennison said in an interview with a Hawaii station, Hawaii News Now.
Flanagan 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.'
Prior to Flanagan's termination, Dennison reprimanded the reporter for for 'lashing out' at a colleague and for his 'harsh language' and 'aggressive body language' in internal messages copied to Flanagan and other senior members of the organization, the Guardian reports.
'On three separate occasions in the past month in the past month and a half you have behaved in a manner that has resulted in on or more of your co-workers feeling threatened or uncomfortable,' Dennison told Flanagan.
Jeffrey Marks, WDBJ's president and general manager, said Flanagan had to be escorted by police out of the station when he was fired. Marks described him as 'an unhappy man' and 'difficult to work with,' always 'looking out for people to say things he could take offense to'
Flanagan AKA Bryce Williams tweeted in the hours after he'd killed two people and maimed another that he'd filed a harassment complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Flanagan had his bosses so concerned that they ordered him to seek medical attention.
'This is a mandatory referral requiring your compliance,' Dennison told Flanagan July 30, 2012. 'Failure to comply will result in termination of employment.'
Dennison issued a final warning to Flanagan that December, when he told colleagues in a memo, 'I’m not entirely sure where his head is at...Flanagan was fired three months later.'
Three months later, he was terminated, reports the Guardian.
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 '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.
Kimberly Moore Wilmoth worked with Flanagan in 1999 when he was at a Tallahassee TV station. She said Wednesday that 'he didn't laugh at our jokes or at himself when he would make a mistake.'
A chilling reporter demo reel that Flanagan posted to Facebook shows the professed killer wielding a deadly automatic weapon
Wilmoth describes Flanagan as a loner who didn't socialize with other reporters. She says he got mad when co-workers made light of on-air mistakes. She recounted one story in which he filmed an elderly man trapped inside a car during a flood even though the man was calling out for help.
She says: 'Instead of helping the man, he used the man as a prop.'
One of the tweets Flanagan sent after allegedly shooting Parker and Ward appeared to suggest the cameraman was among the people who disliked working alongside Flanagan.
'Adam went to HR on me after working with me one time!' wrote Flanagan.
Flanagan, who was a multimedia reporter for the station, left WDBJ at their behest.
Prior to Flanagan's two years reporting at WDBJ, the California native had worked at several news stations across the country.
According to his LinkedIn page, Flanagan had stints at WTWC in Florida; WTOC in Savannah, Georgia; WNCT in Greenville, North Carolina; KMID in Midland-Odessa, Texas; and KPIX in San Francisco.
Newsweek reports that Flanagan filed a discrimination lawsuit against WTWC-TV in 2000, which alleged that a producer at the station called him a 'monkey.'
Flanagan also alleged in the suit that an 'official' at the station joked that a black murder suspect with gold and green grills had 'collared greens' stuck in his teeth, reports TMZ.
He also claims in the suit that he heard a manager tell another black employee to 'stop talking ebonics.'
Posted just a week before: Fast forward to this past week and Flanagan appeared to reminisce fondly on his past. In dated-looking photo after photo posted to social media, the 41-year-old appeared to put his formerly admirable physique on display
Glory days: Flanagan tweeted and posted to Facebook dozens of photos of his younger days just days before the murders
In some of his photos, the San Francisco State graduate posed in what look like professional settings wearing a mesh shirt and leather pants with a cowboy hat. Others trade the studio look in for a home's balcony
In yet another of his personal photos, Flanagan appears to show off what looks like a Superman tattoo on his left bicep
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 station generally denied the allegations of discrimination and said it had legitimate reasons for ending Flanagan's employment, including poor performance, misbehavior with regard to co-workers, refusal to follow directions, use of profanity and budgetary reasons.
The suit was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2001.
Fast forward to this past week and Flanagan appeared to reminisce fondly on his past. In dated-looking photo after photo posted to social media, the 41-year-old appeared to put his formerly admirable physique on display.
In one of the photos, the San Francisco State graduate poses in what looks like a professional setting wearing a mesh shirt and leather pants with a cowboy hat.
Others show him showing off his biceps and what appears to be a Superman tattoo on his left arm. In one, he's seen wearing little more than a gray thong.
Reaching ever further back, apparently to his childhood in California, Flanagan recently posted photos of himself as a young 'model.'
'Headshot used for getting acting/modeling gigs way back when lol. And, wasn't I a cute baby? ;-)' he tweeted along with several photos as a young man and as a young child.
With one of multiple sets of photos of himself as a kid, Flanagan appears to make a joke about his childhood in the Jehovah's Witness church.
With one of multiple sets of photos of himself as a kid, Flanagan appears to make a joke about his childhood in the Jehovah's Witness church
For reasons not entirely clear, Flanagan tweeted a veritable barrage of photos of himself as both a young adult and young school kid
'And, wasn't I a cute baby? ;-)' Flanagan tweeted with one set of photos
'Ooooh as a Jehovah's Witness I wasn't supposed 2b celebrating b-days but 'mommy' was cool (most of the time) lol,' he wrote.
Also discovered on the professed killer's Facebook was the demo reel he used to land new reporter jobs.
Part of that video, which shows various TV reports Flanagan had done over the years, was a chilling segment in which he held a machine gun.
The live spot by Parker and Ward was nothing out of the ordinary: They were interviewing a local official at an outdoor shopping mall for a tourism story. Then, at about 6:45 a.m., morning show viewers saw her suddenly scream and run, crying 'Oh my God,' as she fell.
Ward fell, too, and the camera he had been holding on his shoulder captured a fleeting image of the suspect holding a handgun.
WDBJ quickly switched back to the anchor at the station, her eyes large and jaw dropping as she said, 'OK, not sure what happened there.' The station later went live again, reporting on their own staff as the story developed.
As he was being pursued by police, Flanagan posted to Facebook and Twitter a horrifying first person video he took of himself carrying out the heinous act
Adam Ward was the videographer for CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia before his life was cut tragically short
Parker and Ward died at the scene after the gunman fired about 15 shots. Their interview subject, Vicki Gardner, was in stable condition later Wednesday after surgery for her wounds.
Flanagan was pursued for hours after the incident as he laid a horrific social media trail for media and authorities to follow.
Franklin County, Virginia, Sheriff Bill Overton said at a press conference that Flanagan fled after the shooting and police located his 2009 Ford Mustang parked at the Roanoke Regional Airport.
Flanagan left his car at the airport and continued his escape in a Chevrolet Sonic that he rented earlier this month, Overton stated.
They were able to track the vehicle as it traveled along Interstate 81 for hundreds of miles.
A license plate reader was able to pick up the Sonic's location on Interstate 66 in Fauquier County, Virginia traveling east, where a trooper began to follow him until backup arrived to assist.
A Virginia State Police official said at a press conference this afternoon that the trooper activated her emergency equipment and attempted to stop the the vehicle, but Flanagan refused to stop and sped away.
Flanagan only drove 'a mile and half, maybe two' before swerving off the road in the Sonic.
He was found with a life-threatening gunshot wound and was airlifted to Fairfax Inova Hospital where he later died.
Flanagan left his car at the airport and continued his escape in a Chevrolet Sonic that he rented earlier this month, Overton stated. They were able to track the vehicle as it traveled along Interstate 81 for hundreds of miles
Crash: Vester Lee Flanagan led police on a short chase before he crashed the Chevy Sonic he rented from an airport
He then drove away in a Chevrolet Sonic that he rented earlier this month from the airport
Flanagan was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition but passed a way about two hours later