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Virginia Gunman Was Ordered by TV Station Bosses to Seek Medical Help

Internal memos obtained by the Guardian reveal Vester Flanagan, also known as Bryce Williams, had repeated confrontations at WDBJ17 in which his behavior made colleagues feel "extremely uncomfortable."

by VICE News
Aug 27 2015, 11:30am

Imagen por Steve Helber/AP

The man who shot dead two former colleagues as they carried out a live broadcast had a long history of behavioral issues at work, it was revealed on Thursday.

Vester Flanagan, who killed reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward on Wednesday morning and later shot himself, had been ordered by bosses at WDBJ7 television station in Virginia to seek medical help after a series of arguments with colleagues, according to internal memos obtained by the Guardian.

Flanagan had made colleagues feel threatened and acted unprofessionally during various arguments with photographers over how segments should be filmed, reported the newspaper, leading to official warnings and ultimately to his dismissal in February 2013.

A memo dated May 31, 2012 outlines three separate confrontations — two in which Flanagan took issue with photographers about how they were choosing to film, getting angry in front of interviewees, and another in which he "lost his temper" inside a station truck, making co-workers feel "both threatened and extremely uncomfortable."

Related: Suspected Shooter in Virginia Killing of Reporter and Cameraman Is Confirmed Dead

In a memo dated July 30, 2012, the then news director of WDBJ17 Dan Dennison told Flanagan he must contact health professionals or lose his job. It was not reported whether Flanagan had complied with the order.

When Flanagan was finally fired for "unsatisfactory job performance and inability to work as a team member," he became angry and aggressive and had to be escorted out of the newsroom by police.

For his part, Flanagan, who used the onsceen name of Bryce Williams as a reporter, made allegations of racist and sexist treatment by WDBJ17. In the year following his sacking he filed a civil lawsuit against the station claiming to have been the victim of a "carefully orchestrated" attempt by photographers to have him "ousted," in a case which was dismissed by a Virginia court.

In tweets following Wednesday's shootings, he claimed Parker had made racist comments and that Ward had made an official complaint about him after working with him only once.

Related: 62 Murders and Counting: St. Louis Tallies Its Dead as Gun Violence Keeps Rising

In a 23-page fax sent to ABC News in the hours following the attack, Flanagan also detailed his supposed motivations, claiming colleagues had discriminated against him for being black and gay, that he had been inspired by mass shootings including those at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School, and that he was outraged by the racially motivated mass shooting at a Charleston church last June. He apparently bought his gun two days after the massacre.

Speaking on air on Wednesday, WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks said Flanagan was "an unhappy man" who "was sort of looking out for people to say things that he could take offense to. Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. And he didn't take that well."

The White House, and other senior US politicians including Hilary Clinton and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, reiterated calls for improved gun controls in the wake of the murders.

Barack Obama told the BBC last month that the failure to pass "common sense gun safety laws" was his "biggest frustration" as president.

Related: Houston Police Beg for Heightened Gun Safety After Three Child Shootings in Four Days

gun control
gun violence
gun safety
Mass Shootings
Alison Parker
Adam Ward
Bryce Williams
Vester Flanagan
Virginia shootings