Early Wednesday morning, Vester Lee Flanagan II, reportedly upset over being fired from Virginia news station WDBJ7 in 2013 as well as the June church massacre in Charleston, S.C., targeted two of his former colleagues and fatally shot them during a live broadcast.
If that wasn’t horrible enough, after killing WDBJ7 journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward and wounding Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce who was being interviewed at the time, Flanagan, who also went by the name Bryce Williams professionally, recorded and posted video of the shooting to Twitter.
A manhunt, which included area Virginia schools being put on lockdown, ensued for Flanagan. After a Virginia state police officer spotted the vehicle Flanagan was driving, the 41-year-old shot himself and crashed his car. He was apprehended and taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Since the shooting, news of the victims and the shooter has quickly unfolded. Below are some of the more bizarre components to have come out of Wednesday’s tragedy.
This man is neither Vester Lee Flanagan II nor Bryce Williams.
As news of the shooting broke, several media outlets pushed a photo of a black man they believed was the reported shooter. Only one huge problem: The man in the photo was neither Vester Lee Flanagan II nor his alias, Bryce Williams. It was Sherman Lea Jr., a friend of victim Alison Parker. Still reeling from the news that his friend had been gunned down, Lea was forced to take to Twitter to clear his name.
According to the Inquisitr, the photo, which shows Lea, Parker and her boyfriend, WDBJ7 news anchor Chris Hurst, was posted to Parker’s Twitter account April 26.
Vester Flanagan’s father was a standout college football star.
Vester Flanagan Sr. was a mediocre NFL football player who was once a star lineman at Humboldt State University.
According to TMZ Sports, Flanagan Sr. was drafted by Hall of Fame coach and NFL legend Vince Lombardi but played only a few years in the league. Flanagan Sr. played for HSU 1957-1960 and was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame in 1975, according to the gossip-news site.
TMZ notes that since the shooting, it has reached out to Flanagan Sr. but has yet to get a response. However, Yahoo! News notes that Flanagan’s family sent an email to the news station, expressing their condolences to the families of the victims and asking for privacy.
“It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolenses [sic] to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward,” the note read, Yahoo! News reports.
“We are also praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner. Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims’ families and the WBDJ7 [sic] NEWS family. Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victtims [sic]. Our family is asking that the media respect our privacy. Sincerely, The Family of Vester Flanagan.”
Vester Flanagan II may have once worked as a male escort.
Shortly after the shooting, Flanagan sent to ABC News a 23-page manifesto titled “Suicide Note for Friends & Family,” outlining his ramblings as to why he had become a “human powder keg for a while waiting to go boom.” One of the reasons listed was that he had been mistreated because he was a gay black man.
The Bryce Williams Twitter account, the same page where chilling video of the shooting was posted, emerged on Aug. 12. On Aug. 19, Flanagan posted a series of photos: pictures of him as a child, video of him modeling and four photos with the caption: “Hell yeah I’ve been a high paid ‘companion.’ You wish u could too!! Lol.”
Two sources who spoke with People magazine say that Flanagan did, in fact ,exchange sex for money from 1995 to 1997, a period during which one source said he was unemployed. The source told the magazine that during this period, Flanagan used AOL chat rooms to find potential clients.
“In his profile, he had a lot of dollar signs, and that was a sign to the people he was chatting with that he was willing to hook up for money,” the source told People. “He kept it a secret from his parents, but he did tell a few other family members in his generation who he thought might accept it. I won’t say he was proud of it, but he wasn’t ashamed, either.”
Vester Flanagan II was dubbed the “human tape recorder” for his stiff, on-air delivery and was reprimanded for wearing an Obama sticker while voting.
In a December 2012 email sent to Flanagan by WDBJ7 News Director Dan Dennison, Dennison blasted Flanagan for his on-air performance.
“Your on-air performance … continues to be stiff and nervous,” Dennison wrote in the email viewed by the Daily Mail. “You hold onto scripts with both hands, even when you have a teleprompter in the studio, and never refer to them. This is an unnecessary crutch. Given your level of experience doing live television, our expectation is that your on-air performance should be better.”
Dennison told Flanagan that he was a “human tape recorder” who didn’t dig deep enough to find the truth when reporting but, rather, took interviewees at their word.
“Your job as a news reporter is to dig for the truth and the facts,” he wrote, according to the Daily Mail. “You have a tendency to repeat instead of report on many stories, which leads to thinly sourced material and a lack of substance.”
On Nov. 9, 2012, Flanagan reportedly was spotted wearing an Obama sticker while he stood in line to vote, which violated company policy.
“This demonstrated a basic lack of understanding of your role as an on-air journalist at the television station and poor judgment,” Dennison wrote in the email. The email ended with a warning that termination was imminent if Flanagan didn’t stop violating company policy.
USA Network postpones season finale of Mr. Robot, citing a similar scene to the Virginia shooting.
Viewers of the critically acclaimed show learned Wednesday that they are going to have to wait to watch the season finale after the network pulled the episode, citing a “graphic scene” too similar to the Virginia shootings.
“The previously filmed season finale of Mr. Robot contains a graphic scene similar in nature to today’s tragic events in Virginia,” the network said Wednesday in a statement viewed by CNN. “Out of respect to the victims, their families and colleagues, and our viewers, we are postponing tonight’s episode. Our thoughts go out to all those affected during this difficult time.”