The alleged gunman in the murder of a Virginia TV reporter and cameraman this morning has been identified by police as Vester Lee Flanagan, who anchored WDBJ for one year using the name Bryce Williams. Someone identifying themselves as Williams on Twitter has confessed to the shooting and uploaded video footage of himself shooting Parker point-blank.
In a lengthy rant, Williams, who is black, claims that Parker made “racist” comments towards him.
The Twitter page and Facebook profile have already been deleted. Flanagan’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at WDBJ between 2012 and 2013 as a multimedia reporter. (Update 9/27: The LinkedIn profile has also been deleted.)
In two videos, about 20 seconds each, Flanagan can be seen approaching Ward, Parker and Garner as they do the interview. He circles around them and points a gun at them; none appear to notice. The camera angle drops slightly as he fumbles with something. He then raises the gun, the muzzle visible in the frame, and fires at Parker, who screams and begins to run.
Update, 11:40 a.m.:
Brian Stelter at CNN reports that ABC received a fax from someone claiming to be Williams/Flanagan last night or early this morning.
Update 2, 12:32 pm:
Multiple outlets are reporting that Flanagan has shot himself and is currently in critical condition.
You can watch a livestream of WDBJ7’s coverage of the aftermath of the murders here.
Update, 2:25 p.m.:
Flanagan was pronounced dead at an area hospital at 1:26 this afternoon, according to state police. ABC reports that they’ve turned the faxes he sent them over to law enforcement; they report that he called ABC several times over the past few weeks, saying without elaboration that he wanted to pitch a story, then sent them a lengthy fax this morning, which they say was time-stamped at 8:26 a.m., about two hours after the shooting.
In the fax, ABC reports, Flanagan claims the murders were his response to the shooting in Charleston in which a white gunman killed nine black churchgoers:
“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. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
Elsewhere in the fax, he expressed camaraderie and admiration with the mass shooters who carried out killings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, and described himself as a “human powder keg,” angry over allegedly being mistreated for being black and gay:
Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, and calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin’.
In an often rambling letter to the authorities, and family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Williams calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family”.
—He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. —He says he has been attacked by black men and white females. —He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man
“Yes, it will sound like I am angry...I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace....”
“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!!!!”.
This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Vester Lee Flanagan’s last name.
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