Vester Lee Flanagan, The Virginia TV Shooting Suspect, Has Died
Vester Flanagan, the man suspected of killing two Virginia news station employees on live television, has died at a hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Flanagan, a former reporter at WDBJ7 who went by the on-air name Bryce Williams, was in critical condition at a Virginia hospital. The suspect led authorities on a manhunt after killing Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and when officials caught up with his vehicle on Interstate 66, he shot himself.
The suspect sent ABC News a 23-page suicide note detailing his motivations. According to the manifesto, what sent him "over the top" was the Charleston church shooting. "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." ABC News reports that it received the note via fax Wednesday morning, and that a man claiming to be "Bryce Williams" called several times over the last few weeks. ABC provided the fax to authorities.
The Associated Press reports that Flanagan was confirmed by officials as the suspect. WDBJ-TV general manager Jeffrey Marks told the news wire that Flanagan was a former reporter who was difficult to work with, and was fired after "many incidents of anger."
Parker, a 24-year-old reporter, and Ward, a 27-year-old cameraman, were filming live in Moneta, Virginia, interviewing Vicki Gardner, head of the local Chamber of Commerce, who was also shot, but is in stable condition after surgery. Flanagan allegedly came up to the crew and began shooting, killing Parker and Ward. The suspect posted videos of the shooting through his Facebook page, which was under the name of Bryce Williams.
Although officials have yet to confirm a motive, Flanagan's manifesto claims that he suffered from racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying. According to ABC News, he was outraged over the Charleston church shooting, in which nine black churchgoers were killed by Dylann Roof, who has been charged with several hate crimes. The manifesto said:
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!!!!