The former television reporter who fatally shot two journalists pulled the gun on himself as police closed in on him along a Virginia highway.
Vester Lee Flanagan, professionally known as Bryce Williams, killed the journalists out of anger over the South Carolina church shootings in June. He was known as someone who was easily offended and difficult to work with, as reported by Fox News.
After Flanagan unleashed terror in the Wednesday shooting that killed WDBJ-TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, he sent a manifesto to ABC News wherein he expressed his infuriated state of being. This spawned a manhunt that ended when he shot himself as police closed in on him.
“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am,” the document states. “And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”
In the document, he referred to the church shootings as the “tipping point … but my anger has been building steadily … I’ve been a human powder keg for a while … just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
He also said that he bought a gun two days after the Charleston church shooting that killed nine people. Flanagan was a gay black man, which was why he said he was victim of racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work.
Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton expressed that while the circumstances surrounding the incident are still being inquired, Flanagan’s previous employment and other evidence are being looked into as part of the investigation.
“Many of you have gotten a lot of the correspondence, emails that had been sent out. It’s obvious that … this gentleman was disturbed in some way of the way things had transpired,” and that “at some point in his life, things spiraled out of control,” Overton said.
As reported by USA Today, Flanagan also spoke highly of the killings of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 and 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.
Flanagan took to his Twitter account within hours of the Wednesday shooting, accusing Parker of making “racist comments” and thereby asking, “They hired her after that???” Flanagan further said the other victim, Ward, had filed a complaint with WDBJ’s human resources department “after working with me one time!!!”
Overton said police are trying to find out how Flanagan knew that Parker and Ward were reporting from Bridgewater Plaza. The shooter’s cell phone was tracked, which enabled the authorities to locate him, federal officials and the Augusta County Sheriff’s Department said.
According to CNN, Virginia State Police saw the car Flanagan was driving traveling east on Interstate 66. Despite the trooper trying to stop him, Flanagan continued speeding away before ramming into an embankment around mile marker 17.1 in Fauquier County. Upon discovering him with what was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead Wednesday afternoon, Virginia State Police Sgt. F.L. Tyler said.
‘We had no contact with him at all, and then suddenly this happened’
“Vester was an unhappy man,” WDBJ station manager Jeff Marks said. “We employed him as a reporter and he had some talent in that respect and some experience. He quickly gathered a reputation of someone who was difficult to work with. He was sort of looking out to 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. We had to call police to escort him from the building.”
Marks also said he believed that Flanagan made up incidents of racial discrimination during his employment with the station.
After being fired, Flanagan filed a complaint where he accused the station of racial discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“You can tell he was obviously very, very angry at the termination,” WDBJ news director Kelly Zuber said. “We understand he continued to live in Roanoke. But why today? Why them? We just don’t know. There was no warning of this. We had no contact with him at all, and then suddenly this happened.”
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