Around 7 AM on Wednesday, Vester Lee Flanagan II texted a
friend. "I'm sorry," he wrote. "I had no other choice."
The 41-year-old, who at the time was being chased by police
after killing two former coworkers at a local news station and
uploading the footage to social media, told Robert Avent not to
And at first, he didn't. Avent was still asleep, and couldn't
call back for a few hours, when he was at work. When the friends
finally connected, Flanagan told his former gym buddy to check
CNN and promptly hung up. Moments later, Flanagan was dead.
Since the August 26 shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, a
bevy of lawsuits, manifestos, suicide notes, and other documents
have emerged to tell the story of how Flanagan went from being a
male escort to a failed TV anchor to a disgruntled shooter. In
them, he claimed variously that he was depressed over his
failing looks and enraged over perceived racial injustices
perpetrated by people he'd worked with over the years.
After the shooting, authorities discovered that the decor in
Flangan's apartment consisted almost entirely of headshots and
pictures of him working as a TV anchor.
Flangan's outrage seems to go all the way back to his high
school days, according to one of his suicide notes, which were
sent to ABC News. In it, he claims that he was kicked off the
football team by coaches who were jealous of his good looks.
His life seemed to hit a high point around 1996, when he took
his first job in Savannah, Georgia. It was there that he fell in
love with a guy named Kenny, according to the note.
"Ken was there for me in ways I cannot even describe," Flanagan
wrote. "What a great experience that was—all around. A
scenic/romantic city...a new romance...a career hitting on all
cylinders. Sadly, we only had a short period of 'happiness' as
it related to my career, anyway."
His life started unraveling again after he moved to Florida. In
a 2000 lawsuit, Flanagan claimed that after taking a job in
Tallahassee, he was bullied and profiled. He would repeat
similar allegations in Roanoke, Virginia, after he was fired
from a job there in 2013 for being difficult. In another
harassment case, Flanagan called the situation "nothing short of
vile, disgusting, and inexcusable," according to the New York
Times. Flanagan reportedly reacted to that firing by killing and
ceremoniously burying his two cats.
Even after he was terminated and working a series of insurance
jobs, Flanagan continued to live in a drab apartment, right
across from the TV station. His neighbors there say he was
combative and sometimes flung cat feces onto peoples' porches.
(And video has emerged of a July road rage incident that took
place after another driver confronted Flanagan for driving
In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Flanagan started
calling ABC in advance of faxing his suicide notes. In his final
missive, he claimed was responding to South Carolina church
shooter Dylann Roof and wanted to start a race war.
But a separate manifesto eventually delivered to his friend
Robert Avent—who passed it along to the New York Daily
News—offers alternative motivations that center on his previous
employment as a male escort. According to Avent's account,
Flanagan was more concerned with his fleeting looks than with
"I totally CANNOT score right now. . .," Flanagan wrote his
friend. "And this is from a man who used to be paid hundreds an
HOUR to sleep with men." In the letter, he claimed that he was
upset about getting old, and was afraid that heads would "stop
turning" at his appearance.
During his final conversation with Avent, Flanagan remained
calm. "Oh, I did something this morning," he apparently said. "I
shot and killed two people."
"How come you're talking to me in a calm voice?'" Avent told the
Daily News he remembered saying.
"Well, you know, I just feel, I didn't like those people,"
Flanagan reportedly replied.
The disgruntled former newsman then told his friend he wasn't
going to prison, and that he loved him. He abruptly terminated
the call and shot himself in the head.