ROANOKE, Va. (MEDIA GENERAL) — The man suspected in the shooting deaths of a WDBJ news reporter and photographer previously worked at the station and was described by Virginia’s governor as a “disgruntled employee.”
Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, who went by the name Bryce Williams on air, joined WDBJ in April 2012 as a multimedia journalist and general assignment reporter.
Prior to, he worked as a reporter at a number of stations throughout the South, including WNCT in Greenville, N.C. where he was a reporter and weekend anchor, WTWC in Tallahassee, Fla., and WTOC in Savannah, Ga.
Flanagan graduated from Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif., before attending San Francisco State University, CNN reported. Shortly after graduating college, he worked as an intern at KPIX, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco.
In March 2000, Flanagan sued a former employer over allegations of race discrimination.
According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit filed against WTWC in north Florida claimed that a producer called him a “monkey” in 1999 and that other black employees had been called the same name by other workers.
Flanagan also claimed that a white supervisor at the station said black people were lazy because they did not take advantage of scholarships to attend college.
The station denied the allegations saying it had legitimate reasons for ending Flanagan’s employment, including poor performance, misbehavior with regard to co-workers and refusal to follow directions, among other reasons, the AP reported.
Flanagan is suspected in the killing of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photojournalist Adam Ward, 27. The two were shot at about 6:45 a.m. Wednesday during an interview on live TV near Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, southeast of Roanoke.
Flanagan fled the scene but was spotted a few hours later traveling on Interstate 66, in Fauquier County, Va.
According to Virginia State Police, Flanagan ran off the road and crashed his car before shooting himself. He was taken to a local hospital where he later died from the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The family of Vester Flanagan family released the following statement:
Dear News WDBJ7,
It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolenses to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. 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 NEWS family. Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victtims. Our family is asking that the media respect our privacy.
The Family of Vester Flanagan