Vester Lee Flanagan II, the gunman who killed two journalists during a live broadcast of WDBJ-7’s “Mornin’” program in Moneta, Va., and later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, had a history with the Roanoke, Va., station.
His colleagues at the station came to know him as an angry and difficult person to work with, station manager Jeff Marks said during a live broadcast.
"Vester was an unhappy man," Mr. Marks said, adding that he had to be escorted out of the building by police after he was terminated from the station in 2013.
"He did not take that well," he added.
Other former colleagues echoed Marks’ sentiments.
Mr. Flanagan "was a good on-air performer, a pretty good reporter and then things started getting a little strange with him," Don Shafer, the former news director of Florida's WTWC-TV, where Mr. Flanagan worked in the late 1990s, said Wednesday. He spoke in an interview broadcast by Mr. Shafer's current employer, San Diego 6 The CW.
Shafer said his "bizarre behavior" prompted managers at the Florida station to fire Flanagan.
Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, who worked with Flanagan at the Florida station, recalled him as "off-kilter" and someone who "never really made himself part of the team."
Flanagan sued the Florida station over allegations of race discrimination in 2000. He claimed a producer had called him a "monkey" in 1999 and that other black employees had endured the same. The suit also included a complaint about an unnamed white supervisor at the station that had said black people were lazy because they did not take advantage of scholarships to attend college. Flanagan and station managers settled that suit out of court.
Flanagan worked at several other stations around the country before and after his stint in Florida.
In 1996 he worked as a freelance production assistant at KPIX, a San Francisco station. He worked as a general assignment reporter at WTOC-TV in Savannah from 1997 to 1999. From 2002 to 2004, he worked as a reporter and anchor for WNCT-TV in Greenville, N.C.
If his time in broadcast in Florida and Virginia had been troubled, colleagues and neighbors earlier in his life recall a different Flanagan. A former co-worker at the California station, Barbara Rodgers, remembered him only vaguely as "a young, eager kid out of journalism school," who "just wanted to be on TV and to do a good job."
At the Georgia station, Flanagan was remembered as "tall, good looking and seemed to be really nice, personable and funny," said a former fellow reporter, Angela Williams-Gebhardt, who now lives in Ohio. The station's former news director, Michael Sullivan, said Flanagan was relatively inexperienced, but did a decent job, without any apparent problems.
A native of Oakland, Calif., who graduated from nearby San Francisco State University, Flanagan was remembered by one childhood friend with fondness.
"I don't remember anything bad about him," said Sasha Dansky, a high school classmate, recalling Flanagan's frequent appearance at parties. "He was just a nice, affable guy."
Virgil Barker, who lived on the same leafy street, said, "I know you want to hear that he was a monster, but he was the complete opposite.”
Barker added, "He was very, very loving."
The enduring images of Wednesday’s horror tell a different story. The rampage began with multiple shots that killed reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward on Wednesday morning. Vicki Gardner, a local Chamber of Commerce official who was being interviewed live, was wounded.
Shortly after the violence, purposefully wrought in front of a live audience, Flanagan faxed a 23-page manifesto to ABC News in which he cited the racially motivated shooting deaths of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., this past June as a kind of inspiration, and reported racial discrimination for being black, and harassment and bullying for being gay, according to ABC News.
"I've been a human powder keg for a while...just waiting to go BOOM!!!" Flanagan wrote.
Flanagan’s family offered condolences to the victims' loved ones in the following statement:
It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolenses to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. We are also praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner. Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims' families and the WBDJ7 NEWS family. Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victims. Our family is asking that the media respect our privacy.
Authorities have not pinpointed a motive, but missives online, as well as the letter received at ABC, suggest Wednesday’s violence was racially motivated.
Hours after the shooting, someone posted video of the shootings online, apparently from the shooter's perspective. The videos were posted to Twitter and Facebook accounts registered to Bryce Williams, the name Flanagan had used throughout his career in broadcast journalism. The videos have since been removed.
Posts on the Twitter feed included accusations that one of the victims had made "racist comments" and said that a complaint had been filed with a government agency that enforces discrimination claims.
Flanagan died Wednesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, presumably sustained during a police pursuit after the shooting. Police apprehended him after he crashed his car and transported him to an area hospital, where he later died.