After killing two and wounding one on live television early Wednesday morning, Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41 cited the Emanuel A.M.E. shooting as the trigger for his attack.
WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24 and cameraman Adam Ward, 27 were interviewing director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce Vicki Gardner, for a story on tourism when Flanagan, an ex-employee of the station walked up and shot all three.
Parker and Ward died on the scene, Gardner was taken to a Roanoke Hospital and is now in stable condition.
The gunman shot himself following a highway police chase and was pronounced dead at 1:30 p.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
Flanagan, who went by Bryce Williams on air, filmed the attack himself and posted the video to his Twitter and Facebook pages, both have since been taken down.
“It sounds like he was trying to get the media’s attention,” said Gage Swenson, a Computer Science major and freshman at the College. “I feel bad that it generated so much attention, I don’t think it’s deserved.”
Two hours after the shooting Flanagan faxed a 23-page document to ABC News titled “Suicide Note for Friends & Family.” The document was immediately passed on to the authorities.
In the document he 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,” he continued, “and my hollow point bullets have the victim’s’ initials on them,” Flanagan wrote, not specifying whose initials he meant.
“I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
He even directly addressed Dylann Roof, who is facing charges for murder and hate crimes after shooting nine black congregants of the Emanuel A.M.E. church in June.
“You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!”
Dot Scott, president of the NAACP chapter in Charleston told the Post and Courier that there needs to be discussion in the Lowcountry about keeping the peace.
“Folks shouldn’t lose their lives because of how people perceive what other people are doing,” she said.
ABC also reported that Flanagan mentioned the perpetrators of the Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings with admiration.
“He has to have been mentally ill to kill people and himself,” said sophomore Rachael, a Women’s and Gender Studies major, who wished to keep her last name private, “I don’t think killing people is a good way to send a message.”
Flanagan claimed to have been discriminated against and bullied in the workplace for being a black gay man. Documents from the court case he filed against the station after he was fired suggest he was difficult to work with and frequently instigated conflict with coworkers. Investigations never found any evidence of discrimination, despite his repeated complaints. Jeff Marks, WDBJ’s general manager, added that he was “absolutely certain” the discrimination alleged by Flanagan never occurred.
“I don’t think any shooters are successful,” Swenson said, “from the Charleston shooting we see that people can stand together as a community through horrible things.”