Two television journalists were killed during a live broadcast
in Virginia on Wednesday, shot by a suspect who was a former
employee of the TV station and who called himself a "powder keg"
of anger over what he saw as racial discrimination at work and
elsewhere in the United States.
The suspect, 41-year-old Vester Flanagan, shot himself as police
pursued him on a Virginia highway hours after the shooting.
Flanagan, who was African-American, died later at a hospital,
The journalists who were killed were reporter Alison Parker, 24,
and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Both journalists were white, as is
a woman who they were interviewing. The woman was wounded and
was in stable condition, a hospital spokesman said.
Social media postings by a person who appeared to be Flanagan
indicated the suspect had grievances against the station, CBS
affiliate WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, which let him go two years
ago. The person also posted video that appeared to show the
attack filmed from the shooter's vantage point.
Flanagan sent ABC News a 23-page fax about two hours after the
shooting, saying his attack was triggered by the June 17 mass
shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the
network said. Nine people were killed, and a white man has been
charged in that rampage.
The network cited Flanagan as saying he had suffered racial
discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. He had
been attacked by black men and white women, and for being a gay
black man, he said.
"The church shooting was the tipping point ... but my anger has
been building steadily," ABC News cited the fax as saying. "I've
been a human powder keg for a while ... just waiting to go BOOM!"
The on-air shooting occurred at about 6:45 a.m. EDT (1045 GMT)
at Bridgewater Plaza, a Smith Mountain Lake recreation site
about 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Washington.
The broadcast was abruptly interrupted by the sound of gunshots
as Parker and the woman being interviewed, Vicki Gardner,
executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber
of Commerce, screamed and ducked for cover.
Hours after the shooting, someone claiming to have filmed it
posted video online. The videos were posted to a Twitter account
and on Facebook by a man identifying himself as Bryce Williams,
which was Flanagan's on-air name.
The videos were removed shortly afterward. One video clearly
showed a handgun as the person filming approached the woman
The person purporting to be Williams also posted, "I filmed the
shooting see Facebook" as well as saying one of the victims had
"made racist comments."
In the fax to ABC News, Flanagan praised shooters who had
carried out mass killings at Virginia Tech University in 2007
and at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999.
ABC News said Flanagan called the network shortly after 10 a.m.
Flanagan said he had shot two people, police were after him and
then hung up. ABC News then contacted authorities and turned
over the fax, which had arrived about 90 minutes earlier, the
SHOT HIMSELF AS POLICE CLOSED IN
Flanagan shot himself as Virginia State Police were closing in
on a rental car on Interstate 66 in Fauquier County, WDBJ7 said.
Virginia state police said the suspect refused to stop when
spotted by troopers and sped away.
Minutes later, the suspect's vehicle ran off the road and
crashed, police said in a statement, adding the troopers
approached the vehicle and found the driver with a gunshot
wound. He was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital near Washington,
where he died.
"It's obvious that this gentleman was disturbed in some way at
the way things had transpired at some part of his life," Overton
told a news conference.
"It appears things were spiralling out of control, but we’re
still looking into that," he said. "We still have a lengthy
investigation to conduct and that's our focus as we move
Flanagan had sued another station where he worked in Florida,
alleging he had been discriminated against because he was black. [ID:nL1N1111J3]
Flanagan said he was called a "monkey" by a producer in a
lawsuit filed in federal court against a Tallahassee station,
WTWC, in 2000. He also said a supervisor at the station called
black people lazy. The Florida case was settled and dismissed
the next year, court records show.
WDBJ7 President and General Manager Jeff Marks said he could not
figure out a particular connection between Flanagan and the two
Speaking to CNN about Flanagan, he added, "Do you imagine that
everyone who leaves your company under difficult circumstances
is going to take aim?"
"Why were they (Parker and Ward) the targets, and not I or
somebody else in management?" he said.
The station's early morning broadcast showed Parker interviewing
Gardner about the lake and tourism development in the area.
Gunshots erupted, and as Ward fell his camera hit the ground but
kept running. An image caught on camera showed what appeared to
be a man in dark clothing facing the camera with a weapon in his
The station described the two dead journalists as an ambitious reporter-and-cameraman team who often produced light and breezy
feature stories for the morning program.
"I cannot tell you how much they were loved," Marks said.
They were both engaged to be married to other people at the
A couple living across from the shopping centre where the
shooting took place said police burst into their apartment and
awakened them at gunpoint. Police said they were looking for the
shooter, according to the woman, who identified herself only as
"I moved from Philly (Philadelphia) to get away from that kind
of stuff," she said, adding that she had been in the area a few
The White House said the shooting was another example of gun
violence that is "becoming all too common."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, reflecting frustration that
President Barack Obama has expressed over his inability to push
through laws to tighten gun laws, told reporters that Congress
could pass legislation that would have a "tangible impact on
reducing gun violence in this country."
According to his social media sites, Flanagan attended San
Francisco State University. A university spokesman said he
graduated in 1995 with a degree in radio and television.