Was Vester Flanagan suffering from paranoid delusions and losing his sanity?

Vester Lee Flanagan II, who used the name Bryce Williams professionally, shot and killed Alison Parker and Adam Ward yesterday morning as Parker was interviewing Vicki Gardner, the director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Ward, who worked with Parker regularly as her cameraman, was filming the interview which was being broadcast live by WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, VA. Although wounded, Gardner survived the shooting and is listed in good condition today after undergoing emergency surgery yesterday. Flanagan committed suicide yesterday around midday by shooting himself in the head after he attempted to flee from a Virginia state trooper and appeared to lose lost control of his vehicle ultimately stopping in a grassy median between the E/B and W/B lanes of I-66.

In a 23-page manifesto that Flanagan faxed to ABC News yesterday morning after the shooting, he described himself as “a human powder keg” claiming that he had been a victim of racial and sexual discrimination at the television station where Parker and Ward worked. He accused Parker of making a racist remark to him and Ward filmed his physical removal from the television station in 2013 after he was fired and refused to leave the premises. From Wikipedia:

WDBJ announced their hiring of Flanagan, using the professional name Bryce Williams, as a multimedia journalist on April 19, 2012. During his time there, he had heated confrontations with coworkers and was noted to have breached the company’s journalism standards, a poor on-air performance, and demonstrated a lack of thorough reporting. Office memos from WDBJ showed that in July 2012, Dan Dennison, then news chief of the station, ordered Flanagan to contact the Health Advocate after complaints that coworkers were “feeling threatened or uncomfortable” while working with him. The station dismissed him on February 1, 2013, citing his volatile temper and difficulty with coworkers. According to a former colleague, Flanagan lashed out at newsroom staffers after learning of his firing, resulting in the staffers being put in a room while police escorted Flanagan out of the building. Ward was said to have recorded Flanagan as he was escorted out and had a confrontation with him that day. WDBJ provided security to the staffers for a time after the incident, and directed them to call 9-1-1 if he ever returned to the station. Flanagan filed an EEOC complaint against WDBJ, again alleging racial discrimination; he allegedly named Parker in his complaint. Following an investigation, the EEOC dismissed the complaint after Flanagan’s claims were not corroborated.

I suspect Flanagan was struggling with a worsening mental illness that made it difficult for him to distinguish between reality and his imagination. He was difficult to work with and his work performance was sub-par. Here’s Wikipedia again,

Between March 1999 and March 2000, Flanagan worked as a reporter for NBC affiliate WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida. After losing his job in March 2000, Flanagan filed a civil lawsuit against WTWC alleging racial discrimination. He also allegedly threatened to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Flanagan’s lawsuit against WTWC was settled under unspecified terms in January 2001 (WTWC’s news operation itself was discontinued by its owner earlier in November 2000 due to ratings and budget issues). Former colleagues at WTWC later stated that Flanagan was fired for his poor work ethic and that he had fabricated his allegations of discrimination.

Flanagan spent a short period of time working in customer service in a Bank of America branch in San Francisco, then Pacific Gas and Electric in Greenville, North Carolina. He later joined Media General owned CBS affiliate WNCT-TV in Greenville from 2002 until 2004. He also found some work at ABC affiliate KMID in Midland, Texas.

He was apparently unable to secure another job after he was fired by WDBJ-TV in Roanoke in 2013. In his manifesto, he expressed admiration for the Columbine high school shooters and the Virginia Tech shooter. To top it off, he live-tweeted the murders while filming them. Then he posted his video on his Facebook page, set to auto-play, and linked to it with a tweet.

These were not the acts of a sane man. They appear to be the acts of an angry, vengeful and frightened paranoid man losing his sanity.

Flanagan never should have had access to a gun.

I would like to know if Flanagan was being treated by a mental health professional and, if so, whether he disclosed his intent to kill Parker and Ward.  If Flanagan disclosed his intent to kill Parker and Ward to a mental health professional, that person may have had a legal duty to warn them and the police.

Flanagan certainly acted with premeditated intent to kill because he had to get-up early, prepare himself and drive to the remote location by 6:45 am where the interview took place. We also know that he had previously rented a car at the Roanoke airport and parked it in the airport parking lot. After the murders, he drove to the airport, abandoned his car and drove out of the parking lot in the rental car.


9 Responses to Was Vester Flanagan suffering from paranoid delusions and losing his sanity?

  1. Guns, guns and more guns. As someone commented on another thread: the debate over gun control ended at Sandy Hook. If the murders of 20 first-graders and 6 of their teachers didn’t spark a change in how we view gun ownership, I fear nothing can or will.

  2. CarolMaeWY says:

    He really should have had an intervention when he wouldn’t go through therapy on his own and therefore they fired him. A disgruntled employee shooting spree isn’t new! Our mental health system is broken.

    • The station announced today that he complied with what they ordered him to do and returned to work. The firing happened later.

      • CarolMaeWY says:

        Oh I’ve been gone. I thought he didn’t.

        • It’s a complicated story with a lot of twists and turns. I just happened to catch a press conference when the head of HR at the station said he had complied with their request. What I don’t know is what they told him to do.

          I agree that our mental health system is broken.

          Flanagan looks to me like a guy who was gradually losing his grip on reality, probably through no fault of his own. Instead of demonizing him as a “notoriety killer,” which is what some people have taken to calling him, I think we, as a society, should be asking what went wrong and what could have been done to help Flanagan live a productive life. In other words, I think Flanagan was a canary in a coal mine. By once again failing to ask the right questions, we assure the horror will be repeated. Mix willful societal stupidity with EZ access to guns and presto-change-oh, we get another canary-in-a-coal-mine incident.

          Sometimes I just want to scream.

          • CarolMaeWY says:

            Thank you for updating me. My eyes have kept me off the computer and I refuse to listen to stations anxious to place blame elsewhere. I agree with everything you said. I’m not a wordsmith though and so can’t express it well but we have systemic problems everyone. The easy access to guns is the worst. Notice I live in the Wild West but I’ve never seen open carry rallies. That doesn’t mean we don’t have guns at home though. Suicide is a problem here.
            Thanks again.

  3. Disappointed says:

    What a mess. Guns are so easy to get online and at gun shows. I don’t know when or where he got his. Something needs to change. I don’t know if there should be “trick” questions to figure out who may have mental health issues but damn. I get health issues are private but I do not think they should be private if applying for a weapon.

  4. Much love, says:

    OT: There was alot of coverage online and on TV about the reopening of the Charity hospital in NO; very interesting. They worked to preserve some of the old….Thought you would be interested….sorry for the OT….

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