The shooting of two journalists in Virginia raises issues of race, mental health and guns. Could the tragedy have been prevented by stricter gun control? Spencer Kimball reports from Chicago.
Vester Lee Flanagan, by his own admission, was a disturbed individual.
“Yeah I’m all f—– up in the head,” Flanagan, 41, wrote in a 23-page document that he faxed to broadcaster ABC after shooting dead two journalists on live television in Virginia on Wednesday.
A former reporter at the local news station WDBJ in Roanoke, Flanagan had been reprimanded by his superiors for “lashing out,” using “harsh language,” and having “aggressive body language” that made “co-workers feel threatened or uncomfortable.” He was told to seek medical help or risk termination. The internal memos detailing Flanagan’s issues at work were obtained and published by “The Guardian.”
In 2013, WDBJ fired Flanagan, who had gone by Bryce Williams on television. Police had to escort him off the premises because he refused to leave.
In the document faxed to ABC, Flanagan described his state of life and mind before shooting Alison Parker, 24, Adam Ward, 27, and ultimately killing himself. A gay black man, Flanagan claimed to have been a victim of racism and harassment. He filed a lawsuit against WDBJ over his dismissal, alleging discrimination. A judge dismissed the case in July.
But Flanagan pointed to the killing of nine black people in a Charleston church by white supremacist Dylann Roof last June as the “tipping point.”
“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!!!!”
A powder keg who was able to purchase a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, one who was inspired by the Virginia Tech and Columbine High School massacres.
“Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there,” Flanagan wrote, referring to the Virginia Tech shooter. “He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.”