Unmasking Virginia Shooter Vester Flanagan: What You Should Know

shooter Vester Flanagan

At around 6:45 a.m. WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were ambushed live on television. The two were shot dead while covering a story at the Bridgewater Plaza on Smith Mountain Lake. The interview subject, who Parker was talking to at the time of the horrific event was Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Right after the shots rang out from the shooter, and Parker’s haunting screams were heard, the feed was cut out, and co-anchor Kimberly McBroom looked confused and alarmed.

Fast forward to a few hours later and the footage of the shooting, as well as the news of Parker and Ward’s death were displayed on screens big and small. What was unknown was the shooter’s identity. What started as a rumor that the shooter might have been a “disgruntled employee” turned into a developing story about identified shooter and former WDBJ7 employee Vester Flanagan. Immediately after his identification, the media started to slowly unfold what lead to the events of Flanagan opening fire, and what kind of frame of mind Flanagan was in at the time of the shooting. It should be said that Flanagan turned the gun on himself after leaving a trail of puzzling clues that he was a mentally unstable man.

Here’s a few things you should know about Vester Flanagan.

1. He was an employee of WDBJ-TV.

Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, used the on air name Bryce Williams while he was employed at the station. He was an employee at WDBJ-TV from 2012-2013. He didn’t last long as colleagues said he was hard to work with. A colleague said of Flanagan’s disposition as a former employee.

“Vester was an unhappy man. 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.”

2. Flanagan had a chance to save his job.

Prior to his firing, news director Dan Dennison, sent an e-mail to his colleagues that he had warned Flanagan that he had just one more chance to save his job. Three months prior to his firing, Dennison had said of Vester’s disposition, “I’m not entirely sure where his head is at.”

3. Vester was encouraged to seek counseling.

Before he was fired from the station, Vester was encouraged to seek counseling. Flanagan, who was previously reprimanded for using “harsh language” and “aggressive language” while at WDBJ-TV, was ordered to contact the company’s Health Advocate. On July 2012, Dennison told Flanagan, “This is a mandatory referral requiring your compliance. Failure to comply will result in termination of employment.”

4. He didn’t take his firing well.

Vester Flanagan didn’t leave WDBJ-TV without making a scene. According to the station’s general manager Jeff Marks, “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.”

Vester Flanagan fired

5. Flanagan tried to sue the station.

In regards to his firing, Vester wound up blaming his employees rather than himself. At the time he wrote a letter to a judge in an effort to sue the station for losing his job. “My entire life was disrupted after moving clear across the country for a job only to have my dream turn into a nightmare.”

He also accused the station of racial and sexual discrimination. While he was escorted out of the building, he turned to the police and said, “ You know what they did? They had a watermelon back there for a week and basically called me a n—– [sic].”

The station denied these allegations from Flanagan.

6. Flanagan purchased firearms weeks ago.

According to The Telegraph, Flanagan had purchased firearms weeks ago. He put down a deposit on 6/19/15 which is two days after the horrendous attack on church goers in Charleston.

7. Flanagan faxed a 23-page manifesto to ABC News the night before he killed Parker and Ward.

Under the name Bryce Williams, Flanagan faxed over a 23-page manifesto over to ABC. In the manifesto Vester laid out exactly why he killed Alison Parker and Adam Ward, while referencing mass killings from Columbine, and Virginia Tech. The tipping point for Flanagan was the church shooting in Charleston.

Flanagan wrote, “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.”

“The church shooting was 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!!!!”

Of the other mass shootings he said, “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin’.”

8. He came out as gay in his manifesto.

In his 23-page manifesto Vester Flanagan came out as gay. He said that he was attacked as a gay black man by WDBJ7. This is something the station also denies.

Vester Flanagan gay

9. He lived close to where the attack took place.

According to Vester’s Facebook page, which has now been suspended, he lived very close to the area in which the attack took place. Specifically, he lived in Roanoke, Virginia.

10. Flanagan left a virtual trail after the attacks.

After the attacks, Flanagan took to his Twitter and Facebook accounts to share extremely graphic footage of the shooting, which he filmed on a GoPro. The footage shows Flanagan circling the victims with a gun right before he shoots. The victims are unaware that he’s about to ambush them as Parker is involved in an interview, and Ward’s back was facing Flanagan.

Vester Flanagan's video view

Flanagan took to his Twitter, which has been suspended, to call both Alison and Adam out, and giving reasons why he decided to kill them.

Vester Flanagan's timeline

Flanagan’s relatives have come forth in support of the victim’s families. A representative for the Flanagan family said in a statement, “It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness we express our deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. We are praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner (the third shooting victim). Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims’ families and the WDBJ television station family.”

Today WDBJ7 took a moment of silence to remember their colleagues Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward remembered

[Parker and Ward photo by AP / Photos via Facebook]

About The Author
Niki Cruz
Niki Cruz is a Freelance Entertainment Journalist based out of New York. With a passion for Film/TV she often contributes to Paste, amNew York and Interview Magazine. Niki spends her time off learning life lessons by binge-watching Dawson’s Creek.