ROANOKE, Va. — The words are a part of everyday conversation —
“swinging” by an address and going out in the “field.”
But in the twisted mind of Virginia gunman Vester Lee Flanagan
II, they were pure racism — and saying them became a death
sentence for Alison Parker.
The 24-year-old white reporter, who was murdered on live TV
along with her cameraman, used the phrases as an intern at WDBJ
TV in Roanoke in 2012, according to an internal complaint filed
by Flanagan, who was black.
“One was something about ‘swinging’ by some place; the other was
out in the ‘field,’?” said the Jan. 21 report by assistant news
director Greg Baldwin, which refers to Parker as Alison Bailey
(her middle name).
Parker was never disciplined over the remarks, but Flanagan
never forgot them.
Hours after gunning her and Adam Ward down during their
broadcast Wednesday, Flanagan revealed in tweets that the
comments were still fresh in his mind.
“Alison made racist comments,” Flanagan posted while he was on
the run from cops.
“They hired her after that??” he wrote.
But colleagues said that it was all in Flanagan’s head and that
Parker was as far from racist as they come.
“That’s how that guy’s mind worked. Just crazy, left-field
assumptions like that,” Ryan Fuqua, a video editor at WDBJ, told
“[Those words are] just common, everyday talk. [But] that was
his MO — to start s-?-t,” Fuqua explained. “He was unstable.
One time, after one of our live shots failed, he threw all his
stuff down and ran into the woods for like 20 minutes.”
Flanagan made the accusations a month before he was fired in
February 2013. The document was part of his unsuccessful
discrimination lawsuit against the television station.
Trevor Fair, a 33-year-old cameraman at WDBJ for six years, said
that the words Parker used are commonplace but that they would
routinely set Flanagan off.
“We would say stuff like, ‘The reporter’s out in the field.’ And
he would look at us and say, ‘What are you saying, cotton
fields? That’s racist,’?” Fair recounted.
“We’d be like, ‘What?’ We all know what that means, but he took
it as cotton fields, and therefore we’re all racists.”
“This guy was a nightmare,” Fair said. “Management’s worst
Flanagan assumed everything was a jab at his race, even when a
manager brought in watermelon for all employees.
“Of course, he thought that was racist. He was like, ‘You’re
doing that because of me.’ No, the general manager brought in
watermelon for the entire news team. He’s like, ‘Nope, this is
out for me. You guys are calling me out because I’m black.’?”
Flanagan even declared that 7-Eleven was racist because it sold watermelon-flavored Slurpees.
“It’s not a coincidence, they’re racist,” he allegedly told Fair.
A black former classmate of Parker at James Madison University
was stunned by the allegations, saying Parker was kind to people
of all races during their time at the Harrisonburg, Va., school.
“When I took [my journalism] job, she recommended me,” Jessica
Albert told the Associated Press. “She did that for me, so she’s
definitely not a racist.”
Meanwhile, authorities revealed Thursday that Flanagan planned
on getting away after the murders, and that suicide was a last
Inside the rental car where he killed himself during a police
pursuit, cops found a briefcase with three license plates, a
wig, a shawl, an umbrella, sunglasses, a black hat, and a to-do
Cops also discovered a Glock 19 pistol with multiple magazines
and ammunition, a white iPhone, several letters and notes, a
“powder residue” and “bodily fluids.”
Police identified Flanagan as a person of interest in the
murders when he sent an unnamed friend a text message “making
reference to having done something stupid,” according to a
Virginia State Police search-warrant affidavit.
At Flanagan’s house in Roanoke, cops found evidence that he was
a self-absorbed slob who indulged in gay porn in his spartan
They found unwashed sex toys, cat feces and several pictures of
himself on his refrigerator, according to the Daily Mirror.
Prior to their search, officers entered the residence through
the balcony, fearing Flanagan might have left booby traps.
Images obtained by the British newspaper show that his home —
just 500 yards from the WDBJ studios — had little furniture
aside from a leather couch and chair.
A neighbor said Flanagan was often “rude and arrogant” and that
he would throw cat feces at apartment doors during disputes.