Vester Flanagan, shooter of 2 Virginia TV journalists: what we know

The man who shot a Virginia TV reporter and cameraman during a live broadcast has been identified as Vester Lee Flanagan II, a former reporter at TV station WDBJ7, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday afternoon.

Former colleagues, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, shot during live broadcast

Vester Lee Flanagan has died in hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound 5:26

The man who fatally shot a Virginia TV reporter and cameraman during a live broadcast has been identified as Vester Lee Flanagan II, a former reporter at local CBS affiliate WDBJ7.

He died in hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound a few hours after crashing his car on Interstate 66 while being chased by state troopers.

His victims were former colleagues — reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed by Parker, was also injured by shots fired by Flanagan and is recovering in hospital.

WDBJ7 general manager Jeff Marks described the 41-year-old as "an unhappy man." Marks said Flanagan, who used the on-screen name Bryce Williams, started working at the station in 2012 and was fired in 2013.

"We employed him as a reporter, and he had some talent in that respect and some experience," Marks said. 

"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 offence 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."

Escorted out of building

When he was fired, he had to be escorted out of the building by local police "because he was not going to leave willingly or under his own free will," the station's former news director, Dan Dennison, now an official with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, said in an interview with a Hawaii news station.

This image posted on Twitter by CBS News shows Virginia shooter Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of CBS affiliate WDBJ7, who reported under the name Bryce Williams. (CBS News/Twitter)

Parker's boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, said Parker had gone out into the field with Flanagan when she was an intern but he said he did not know of any animosity between them.

Flanagan filed a lawsuit against the station, accusing staff of making racist comments, but his allegations were deemed unfounded after an investigation could not corroborate them, Marks and Dennison said.

Marks said the station talked to all employees and that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed Flanagan's claim. 

Flanagan had Twitter and Facebook accounts under the name Bryce Williams. He posted information about the shootings on his social media accounts and on Facebook he posted a graphic video of the shootings from a camera he was wearing at the time.

His social media accounts have since been suspended.

Flanagan wrote on his Twitter account that his family raised him as a Jehovah's Witness and he had been "a high-paid companion."

It took police several hours to catch up with Flanagan. When they did, police said hi refused to stop his vehicle and 'sped away from the trooper. Minutes later, the suspect vehicle ran off the road and crashed.' (Chris Keane/Reuters)

ABC News reported that it received a fax Wednesday morning, time stamped about two hours after the shooting, from someone claiming to be Bryce Williams and Vester Lee Flanagan II. Two hours after receiving the fax, the station received a phone call from a man claiming to be Flanagan who said he had shot two people and was being pursued by police.

State police officers leave Flanagan's apartment in Roanoke, Va. The disgruntled former TV reporter reportedly sent a fax to ABC News outlining his motives for the shooting of a reporter and a camerman. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

The author of the fax said he was inspired by the shooters in the massacres at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Columbine High School in 1999 and linked his motive to the racism involved in the shooting at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C., in June.

The writer described the 23-page fax as a "suicide note for friends and family," and, according to ABC News, provided a long list of grievances, including racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. ABC News said he also wrote about being "attacked for being a gay, black man."

Worked at several TV stations around the U.S.

Flanagan graduated from San Francisco State University in 1995 with a broadcast journalism degree. He is the son of Vester Flanagan Sr. and Betty Flanagan, an Oakland, Calif., teacher who died in 2008. He has two sisters.

Before working at WDBJ, he worked at TV stations in San Francisco, Tallahassee, Fla., Greenville, N.C., Midland, Texas, and Savannah, Ga., and also held other jobs.

His conflict at WDBJ echoes one he had at Florida TV station WTWC 13 years earlier.

[He was] a pretty good reporter and then things started getting a little strange with him.- Don Shafer, former news director at WTWC

"[He] was a good on-air performer, a pretty good reporter and then things started getting a little strange with him," former WTWC news director Don Shafer said Wednesday in an interview broadcast on Shafer's current employer, San Diego 6 The CW.

Shafer said managers at the Florida station fired Flanagan because of his "bizarre behavior."

Flanagan claimed in a 2000 lawsuit against WTWC that he was "the victim of race-based practices and of retaliation."

Several roadblocks were set up in the region around Moneta, Va., while the manhunt foe Flanagan was underway. (Stephanie Klein-Davis/Roanoke Times/AP)

His career at WTWC, an NBC-TV affiliate, began in 1999. He worked as an anchor and newscaster before he was fired about a year later.

Flanagan claimed in the lawsuit that he was called a "monkey" by a producer working at the station. He alleged an "official" at WTWC told him that "blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money" for scholarships and accused other colleagues of making racist comments.

Flanagan claimed he was fired after he told management about the comments.

In legal documents, WTWC denied Flanagan "complained of unlawful employment practices" or that he was a victim of racism at the station. They claim he was fired because he "failed to properly perform his job."

He sought $15,000 US in damages, and the parties eventually reached a settlement.

Photos: Virginia TV reporters Alison Parker, Adam Ward shot on camera

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      • An earlier version of this story said Flanagan graduated from San Francisco State University in 1975 with a broadcast journalism degree. He actually graduated in 1995.
        Aug 26, 2015 5:23 PM ET

      With files from The Associated Press


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