Iden­ti­fied jour­nal­ist-shooter com­mits sui­cide

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ROBERT MACPHER­SON

The for­mer TV re­porter who shot two jour­nal­ists dead dur­ing a live broad­cast in Vir­ginia be­fore killing him­self warned he had been a “hu­man pow­der keg ... just wait­ing to go BOOM.”

The gun­man — Vester Lee Flana­gan, 41, also known as Bryce Wil­liams — posted chill­ing footage of Wed­nes­day’s mur­der online.

Re­porter Ali­son Parker, 24, and cam­era­man Adam Ward, 27, were fa­tally shot at close range while con­duct­ing an on-air in­ter­view for WDBJ, a CBS tele­vi­sion af­fil­i­ate in Roanoke, about 385 kilo­me­ters south­west of Washington.

It was un­clear whether the shooter even knew Parker be­fore the at­tack.

Friends, fam­ily and the com­mu­nity at large mourned the tragedy, as the in­ci­dent re­newed calls for gun con­trol. Flana­gan was said to have bought his gun legally.

The killings once again high­lighted gun vi­o­lence in Amer­ica — prompt­ing a quick White House call for ac­tion — and also raised ques­tions about how the In­ter­net pro­vided a brief but un­fil­tered win­dow on a hor­rific crime.

“It breaks my heart ev­ery time you read or hear about these kinds of in­ci­dents,” U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama told an ABC af­fil­i­ate in Philadelphia.

The dis­turb­ing

video

of

the deadly on-air shoot­ing — ap­par­ently filmed by Flana­gan him­self — was posted on Twit­ter and Face­book. The footage was later re­moved.

“You send peo­ple into war zones and into dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions, into ri­ots, and you worry that they’re go­ing to get hurt,” WDBJ gen­eral man­ager Jeffrey Marks told CNN.

“You send some­body out to do a story on tourism, and this — how can you ever ex­pect some­thing like this to hap­pen?”

Shots and Screams

Parker was in­ter­view­ing Vicki Gard­ner, head of the Smith Moun­tain Lake Cham­ber of Com­merce, at the lakeside Bridge­wa­ter Re­sort in the town of Moneta near Roanoke when the at­tack oc­curred.

Sev­eral shots were heard, as well as screams, as Ward’s cam­era fell to the floor, cap­tur­ing a fuzzy and chill­ing glimpse of the gun­man point­ing his weapon at the ground.

The sta­tion then hastily cut away to a star­tled an­chor­woman back in the stu­dio.

Later, a video ap­par­ently posted by Flana­gan un­der the Twit­ter ac­count @bryce_williams7, showed the shooter bran­dish­ing a weapon at Parker.

Both she and Ward ap­par­ently did not see the shooter.

Mul­ti­ple shots and screams are then heard, and Parker runs away.

The shooter’s hand is clearly vis­i­ble. He ap­pears to be wear­ing a blue check­ered shirt.

Gard­ner, 62, was in sta­ble con­di­tion at a Roanoke hos­pi­tal.

‘Tip­ping point’

ABC News said it re­ceived a 23-page man­i­festo from a man iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as Bryce Wil­liams nearly two hours af­ter the shoot­ing.

A man later called the net­work and said he had shot two peo­ple. He said author­i­ties were “af­ter me” and “all over the place” be­fore hang­ing up, ac­cord­ing to ABC.

In the ram­bling man­i­festo, Flana­gan — an African Amer­i­can sacked in 2013 by WDBJ — said he was sent over the edge by the June mass shoot­ing of black wor­ship­pers at a church in South Carolina.

De­scrib­ing him­self as a “hu­man pow­der keg ... just wait­ing to go BOOM!!!!,” Flana­gan also com­plained in what he called a “Sui­cide Note for Friends and Fam­ily” of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and bul­ly­ing “for be­ing a gay, black man.”

“Yes, it will sound like I am an­gry ... I am. And I have ev­ery right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emo­tion I want to feel is peace,” it said.

Marks, the sta­tion man­ager, said Flana­gan was dis­missed “af­ter many in­ci­dents of his anger com­ing to the fore.”

Parker’s boyfriend, WDBJ an­chor Chris Hurst, said on Twit­ter that he was “numb,” say­ing the pair were “very much in love” and had just moved in to­gether.

“We were to­gether al­most nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get mar­ried,” he said.

The cam­era­man’s fi­ancee, Melissa Ott, a pro­ducer at the TV sta­tion, watched the shoot­ing play out on air from the con­trol room.

Ott was work­ing her last day at WDBJ be­fore mov­ing on to another sta­tion in another city, and look­ing for­ward to a farewell party with her col­leagues.

“This was go­ing to be a day of cel­e­bra­tion for her time here and wish­ing her good luck,” Marks told CNN, adding staff were very emo­tional and plan­ning a me­mo­rial gath­er­ing.

‘Heart­bro­ken’

The shoot­ing, which took place not far from the scene of the Vir­ginia Tech Univer­sity mass killing in April 2007, launched a fresh round of hand-wring­ing about gun con­trol in Amer­ica.

The re­porter’s fa­ther, Andy Parker, made a plea for ac­tion af­ter the mur­der of his daugh­ter, who he de­scribed as “our bright, shin­ing light.”

“We’ve got to do some­thing about crazy peo­ple get­ting guns,” he told Fox News.

“What we know is that the num­ber of peo­ple who die from gun­re­lated in­ci­dents around this coun­try dwarfs any deaths that hap­pen through ter­ror­ism,” said Obama, who has talked openly about his frus­tra­tion at not mak­ing head­way in gun-con­trol laws.

Even in the face of mass shoot­ings, U.S. law­mak­ers have been hes­i­tant to en­act tougher lim­i­ta­tion on ac­cess to guns, in part be­cause they are loath to anger con­stituents who fiercely de­fend their con­sti­tu­tional right to bear arms. Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton said she was “heart­bro­ken and an­gry.” “We have got to do some­thing about gun vi­o­lence in Amer­ica,” she said on the cam­paign trail.

AP

Com­mu­nity mem­bers sing dur­ing a prayer vigil or­ga­nized by Vi­tal­ize Church in Hardy, Vir­ginia, for the WDBJ jour­nal­ists who were fa­tally shot, Wed­nes­day, Aug. 26. (Grif­fin Moores / The Daily News Leader via AP)

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