The Virginia Shooting is now the biggest trending story worldwide. People have tuned in to see the fatal shootings of reporter, Allison Parker (24) and cameraman, Adam Ward (27) on Wednesday at 6:45 am, at Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County, Virginia, while interviewing Vicki Gardner. The shots rang out Wednesday morning, live and on-air, as Parker and Ward were highlighting a local tourism story at an outdoor shopping mall, just off Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, about 25 miles southeast of Roanoke.
Viewers watched as gunfire rang out and both Parker and Gardner ducked and ran; and Ward falls to the ground with his camera still rolling.
Although there are two main videos of this event floating around, the more popular one, shows, the shooter in a third person perspective, appeared to walk toward the victims, standing a few feet away, branding a gun. Neither Parker nor Gardner seemed to notice the gunman. It is not until Ward points the camera towards Parker when the shooting begins. The feed was cut immediately following the shots.
Authorities stated the alleged gunman was identified as Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, of Roanoke, an ex-employee (fired two years prior) of the WDBJ station. According to Jeffery Marks, WDBJ’s president and general manager, Flanagan had been “fired” for “being hard to work with,” and that he was in need of medical attention. Authorities have also uncovered alleged Tweets and Facebook posts made by Flanagan, reporting workplace conflicts with both victims, racially charged words/phrases/hashtags. Authorities were also given a 23-page document faxed to ABC Wednesday after the shooting accord, with an explanation written by Flanagan.Shortly after the shooting, Flanagan fled to the airport, where he switched into a rental car, (which authorities were able to track) and lead police on a chase; which ended up with Flanagan taking his own life shooting himself and is car “crashing” into the side of the freeway (although we noticed that the car is undamaged in the photographs and there clearly seem to be some other gaps in the account).
This brutal incident leaves many of us with the remaining question: “Who was Vester Lee Flanagan?” In order to help better answer that question we have compiled 5 of the following facts about him:
1. Flanagan is in no way affiliated with the #BlackLivesMatter movement (any insinuations of such should be questioned and disproved, not simply accepted), nor does this shooting have anything to do with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The Huffington Post did an important job of clearly elaborating on why this is so: “It’s clear that given the gunman’s history, this incident may have everything to do with race — but it has nothing to do with #BlackLivesMatter. Flanagan (who also praised Virginia Tech shooter Seung–Hui Cho, calling Cho his “boy”) was obviously disturbed, his delusions filtered through the prism of racism. It’s unfortunate that his skewed worldview has given fuel to people who never wanted to acknowledge the aims of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and have gleefully pounced on an excuse to undermine and devalue it.”
That is to say, the actions of this one man should not define an entire movement or race – this wasn’t even considered, for example, with killer Dylan Roof. To clarify further, his actions reflect the opposite of the intention of #BlackLivesMatter, which is attempting to highlight that all lives should be considered equal.
2. Flanagan had expressed that he suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work, because he was a gay black man.
3. ABC News said it received a 23-page fax from someone named Bryce Williams after the shooting (aka Flanagan). ABC said it has shared the fax with police, and posted some of its contents Wednesday afternoon. The fax came about two hours after the shooting and they were called twice by him in the hours after the shooting. In the fax, Flanagan wrote, “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.”
4. He was fired by WDBJ in 2013 for cited “behavioral issues” and has been cited for “odd behavior” by former employers who also released him from his job (*we must note here that the discussion of mental illness hasn’t even seemed to occur in the mainstream media yet, as it immediately does when the perpetuator is white, although it is a very important possibility to consider, as is the reality and truth of being a Black gay man in America).
5. Flanagan previously sued a news station where he worked for racial discrimination. According to federal court records, he sued WTWC-TV, a Tallahassee, Florida station, in 2000 for “discrimination and retaliation.” The case was dismissed.
(Flanagan posted this photo of a newspaper article on Twitter about the lawsuit to Twitter just days before the shooting.)