Vester Flanagan, a former television reporter at Virginia news station WDBJ7, was followed by local police this morning after the shooting of three people during a live WDBJ7 broadcast. The search ended on Virginia’s Interstate 66, where Flanagan shot himself inside a car he had crashed off the road. He was taken to a hospital where he later died of his injuries, according to police.
Flanagan, who went by the name Bryce Williams on social media and during his short tenure at WDBJ7, is believed to have shot and killed his former co-workers Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, while Parker was conducting a live television interview. (The woman she was interviewing, Vicki Gardner, 61, who was also shot and seriously injured.)
The suspected shooter apparently filmed himself approaching the three victims before opening fire. He posted the footage on his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, which have now been suspended, in the hours after the shooting. He also had written personal complaints about Parker and Ward.
ABC News is reporting that in the past few weeks it received phone calls from a man, claiming to be Bryce Williams, who wanted to pitch a story via fax. ABC received a 23-page fax this morning, almost two hours after the shooting, followed by a phone call from a man who introduced himself as Bryce but also said his legal name was Vester Lee Flanagan. During the phone call, he said he had shot two people.
In the 23-page document that he faxed to ABC (and which ABC turned over to authorities), Flanagan wrote that his actions were directly prompted by the recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist killed nine black church-goers in what police said was a hate crime.
In the memo he faxed today,Flanagan said that he purchased his gun two days after the Charleston shooting:
Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15… What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.
He expressed admiration for perpetrators of other shootings in the US, including the Columbine High School killers and the Virginia Tech shooter, and said that his anger “has been building steadily” because he felt victimized at work for being a gay black man. “I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
WBDJ says Flanagan was fired from his job there in 2013. Station manager Jeffrey Marks, speaking at a press conference this afternoon, elaborated that Flanagan “was difficult to work with” and often took offense at things other people did or said. “Eventually,” said Marks, “after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him, and he did not take that well, and we had to call police to escort him from the building.” Flanagan later filed claims of racial discrimination, which Marks said were “unsubstantiated.”
It appears that Flanagan went through something similar more than a decade ago, with WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida. After working at the station, an NBC affiliate, for almost a year, Flanagan filed a racial discrimination lawsuit when he was told that his employers would not be renewing his contract. As the Tallahassee Democrat reported at the time, the station said his position was being eliminated due to a staff reduction, but Flanagan maintained that he had been harassed because of his race and was being fired for complaining about it.