The gunman described as a “disgruntled employee” who fatally shot two former colleagues on live television on Wednesday morning was fired from the television station and escorted off the premises after a violent outburst.
Vester Lee Flanagan who went by the alias “Bryce Williams” was fired from WDBJ on Feb. 1 2013 due to “unsatisfactory job performance and inability to work as a team member" after a series of agitated confrontations with staff.
Flanagan was hired in March 2012 as a multimedia journalist for the station, but several contentious incidents with fellow employees pushed the company to let him go.
WDBJ news director Dan Dennison had sent several memos to Flanagan regarding his erratic behavior.
“There is no doubt in my mind that you want to do well at WDBJ7 and have an overarching desire to please. However your behaviors continue to cause a great deal of friction with your co-workers, particularly your photographer teammates,” Dennison wrote in a formal warning to Flanagan in July."
The notice went on to demand Flanagan seek medical help or face termination.
"Clearly much damage has been done already in your working relationships with several members of the photography staff. It is your responsibility, going forward, to work at repairing these relationships, as the station cannot be put in the position of making assignments based on the inability of team members to get along. In this regard, you are required to contact Health Advocate, the employee assistance program (EAP), at 1-877-919-9355, option No. 2, by Friday, Aug. 3, 2012. This is a mandatory referral requiring your compliance. Failure to comply will result in termination of employment."
Five months later, Flanagan was fired and made a disastrous scene that culminated in him being escorted off the property by police.
When Flanagan was fired, he rejected a severance package, calling it “bulls**t.”
“I’m not leaving, you’re going to have to call the f***ing police ,” Flanagan said, “Call the police. I’m not leaving. I’m going to make a stink and it’s going to be in the headlines.”
A group of employees locked themselves in an office after Flanagan left the meeting and slammed a door, according to the New York Daily News.
When authorities arrived, they tried to remove the desk phone from Flanagan’s hand.
Flanagan then threw a hat and wooden cross at Dennison saying, “You’ll need this.”
One of the journalists fatally shot by Flanagan, cameraman Adam Ward, had been filming the outburst. Flanagan told Ward to “lose your big gut” and shut off his camera.
As police escorted Flanagan out, he said to police, “You know what they did? They had a watermelon back there for a week and basically called me a n*****.”
After he was fired, Flanagan filed a lawsuit against the station citing racial and sexual discrimination (Flanagan was a black gay man). The case was dismissed.
Flanagan had previously filed a lawsuit against WTWC-TV in Florida in 2000, accusing the producer of calling him a “monkey.” The case was settled for an undisclosed sum.
Flanagan fatally shot WDBJ journalists Alison Parker and Ward on Wednesday morning during a live television broadcast. He later died from a self-inflicted gun wound that day. His family released a statement sending out their condolences to the victims’ families and requesting privacy from the media.