Suspected shooter live tweets manhunt, posts video of killings, then shoots self…
A former TV news reporter is suspected of fatally shooting two ex-colleagues Wednesday morning during a live broadcast — and then appeared to post his own videos of the killings on social media.
The alleged shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II — who went by Bryce Williams on air — shot himself shortly before noon after a five-hour manhunt and is in critical condition, police said.
Before that, he appeared to rant about the victims on Twitter and uploaded a horrifying video he allegedly filmed of the shooting.
He accused the victims — reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27 — of racial prejudice, alluding to complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the station’s human resources department.
“Alison made racist comments,” Flanagan, who is black, tweeted.
“EEOC report filed…They hired her after that???…Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!…I filmed the shooting see Facebook.”
The scene of sudden shock and horror was first captured at a shopping plaza in Moneta, Va., during a routine news story on WDBJ, a CBS affiliate in Roanoke.
“We heard screaming, and then we heard nothing,” general manager Jeff Marks said on air while announcing the deaths of reporter Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, 27.
In the news clip, which aired about 6:45 a.m., Parker interviews Vicky Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, at Bridgewater Plaza, talking about tourism in the area.
As they talk, about seven shots ring out. Parker and Gardner scream and take cover as Ward drops the camera.
A man standing near the two women, dressed in dark clothing and holding what appears to be a gun, is briefly seen in the news clip. He calmly steps away from the scene before the video cuts away.
The video then cuts to a stunned reporter in the WDBJ newsroom, who tries to quickly carry on with broadcast.
Reporters later confirmed Parker and Ward died. Gardner was shot in the back and is in surgery, police said.
“Our team’s on working on (the story) right now, through the tears,” Marks said.
Flanagan was a former WDBJ reporter who was fired about two years ago.
Station manager Marks, speaking on air hours after the shooting, said Flanagan was “an unhappy man” who “quickly gathered a reputation of someone who was difficult to work with.”
He was fired after “many incidents of his anger coming to the fore” and had to be escorted out of the building by police, Marks said. Shortly after that, Flanagan filed an EEOC complaint against the station.
As Flanagan’s fate remained unclear after he shot himself, Marks told viewers, “I’m not sure if I want him to live or die … If he dies, he takes the coward’s way out.”
The shooter has been identified as Bryce Williams, real name Vester Lee Flanagan II, a former reporter at WDBJ.
Hours into the manhunt for the shooter, Flanagan tweeted his rant against his victims and posted his video of the shooting to Twitter and Facebook. In the video, he appears to approach his three victims, lurk next to them for nearly a minute and then fire more than a dozen times. He whispers “Bitch” after pointing the gun at Parker.
In tweets days before the shooting, Flanagan posted pictures of himself as a child, teenager and former TV anchor. He also alluded to a modeling career and being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.
The video disappeared from Facebook, and Flanagan’s Twitter account was suspended minutes after he posted the clip. The Daily News will not be publishing Flanagan’s footage of the shooting. An eerie voicemail on a number listed for Flanagan assures callers they have reached Bryce Williams but called “the right number at the wrong time.”
“Presently I’m out communication with people, so sometimes that takes a little bit longer than expected,” Flanagan says.
He ends the message by telling callers to “always remember this scripture for the day: that this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. You have a blessed day.”
Flanagan sued another former employer for discrimination in 2000 after his contract was not renewed. In a suit filed against WTWC in Tallahassee, Fla., Flanagan accused supervisors of several racist comments, saying they had called him a “monkey” and complained that “blacks are lazy.” The suit was settled in 2001, but the terms of the settlement are unclear.
Parker graduated from James Madison University in 2012 and interned at the station that summer, according to her LinkedIn profile. She returned as a morning reporter in May 2014.
She was dating Chris Hurst, a fellow reporter at WDBJ, who mourned her in a series of tweets.
“We didn’t share this publicly, but @AParkerWDBJ7 and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb,” Hurst wrote.
“We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday … She was the most radiant woman I ever met.”
Ward started working for the station in July 2011, the year he graduated from Virginia Tech, according to his LinkedIn page. He was engaged to Melissa Ott, a WDBJ producer, who was leaving the station after Wednesday for job in Charlotte, N.C. The morning of the shooting, the WDBJ staff held a celebration in her honor.
Security has been increased at the WDBJ station and staff members have not been allowed to leave the building. The NYPD is stepping up security at some New York stations but police said there was “no direct threat.” Source: NY Daily News