Virginia gunman details grievances in lengthy ‘suicide note’
ROANOKE, Va. — The man who police say killed two journalists during a live broadcast Wednesday claimed he was the victim of racial and sexual discrimination and said his rampage was prompted, in part, by Charleston church massacre in June.
ABC News reported that it received a fax Wednesday containing a 23-page manifesto from someone named Bryce Williams, according to a tweet. The document was handed over to investigators, ABC said.
Bryce Williams was the on-air name used by Vester Lee Flanagan II, a former reporter at WDBJ television in Roanoke, Va. Flanagan died in the hospital Wednesday from a self-inflicted gunshot wounds, hours after he is believed to have fatally shot WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. A woman the journalists were interviewing, Vicki Gardner, also was shot and is in stable condition after undergoing surgery.
ABC News posted an article reporting some of the contents of the document they received from the suspect. They show Flanagan alleging that he had been the victim of bullying and discrimination because he is gay and black.
He also said he was compelled to respond to Dylann Roof’s massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June and he was inspired by both Seung-Hui Cho, who orchestrated the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and the teens behind the 1999 Columbine High School killings.
“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…,” Flanagan wrote in the manifesto, according to ABC. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
“I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!” ABC quoted the manifesto as saying. “You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!”
Overton told reporters that authorities are still investigating Flanagan’s motive and are looking into his past employment.
“This gentleman was disturbed in some way,” the sheriff said. “At some point in his life, things spiraled out of control.”
He said the manifesto indicates “where the gentleman’s mind was the night before, or what was taking place there. There was some forethought given as to the chain of events that would happen.”
Two videos posted on a Twitter account under the name Bryce Williams show someone walking up to the WDBJ news crew and pointing a gun at them.
Another tweet said, “I filmed the shooting.” The Facebook and Twitter account were suspended shortly after the tweets.
Video shows the gunman approaching Parker, a WDBJ reporter, and photographer Ward as Parker conducted a routine interview for a local story outside the town of Moneta.
Ward’s back is to the gunman. Parker is in profile, and the interviewee is facing the gunman. The shooter appears to take his time aiming the gun, presenting it and then withdrawing it, before composing the angle of his video. He opens fire on Parker first. Both Parker and the interview subject scream.
Police are not sure how Flanagan knew Parker and Ward were reporting from Bridgewater Plaza, Overton said.
Flanagan moved through several television markets in his career, usually leaving after a few years, not always on good terms.
“He was a good on-air performer, a pretty good reporter. And then things started getting a little strange,” San Diego 6 News Director Don Shafer said. Shafer had hired and fired Flanagan at a Florida television station.
Shafer said he fired Flanagan for “odd behavior.”
Following his termination, Flanagan filed a lawsuit in 2000 against WTWC-TV, a Tallahassee station.
Flanagan alleged a producer in an upper level management position called him a “monkey.” The lawsuit also made other allegations of racism, including that a white worker said “blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money,” referring to college scholarships, and that another employee called a murder suspect “‘just another thug.”
The case was settled out of court, according to court documents.
Orlando Salinas, a former WDBJ reporter who worked with Flanagan, told Adweek’s TVSpy that Flanagan often complained about racism in the workplace.
According to Salinas, on Flanagan’s last day at the station, he created a “ruckus” and other employees moved to another room while police escorted him out of the building.