On August 26, ex-journalist Vester Lee Flanagan, better know as Bryce Williams, shot reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward on CBS Roanoke WDBJ-TV. During a 6:45 a.m. broadcast featuring a local tourism spot at an outdoor shopping mall, Vester recorded himself approaching and firing 15 bullets, killing Parker and Ward.
Vicki Gardener, the interview subject, was shot in the back causing damage to her kidney and colon.The 56 second video would later be posted by the shooter on the social media sites Twitter and Facebook.
Authorities tried to pull Flanagan over at one point, but he ran off the road in his car. Later the shooter would be found inside his car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. From there, Flanagan was moved to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The motive behind the murder is still being investigated, but revenge seems to be the force that drove the attack. Flanagan had been fired from WDBJ-TV in 2013 for performance issues and was escorted out of the building by police.
Flanagan also filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the station’s Human Resources Department. The complaints argued that Flanagan’s termination from the company was motivated by racism on Ward and Parker’s part.
According to court documents, Ward had recorded Flanagan’s emotional outburst, which included him scoffing at Ward and flipping off the camera. Flanagan handed the news director at the time a cross and said “you’ll need this.”
Another possible motive was revealed in the 23 page fax sent to ABC News titled, “Suicide Note for Friends and Family,” written by Flanagan. Flanagan wrote that he sought to avenge the victims of a June church shooting in Charleston saying, “The church shooting was the tipping point,” the shooter wrote.
Later in the fax he cited the Virginia Tech mass killer and the Columbine High School Killers, stating “Also, I was influenced by Seung-Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann [sic] Klebold got…just sayin.”
Parker’s father, Andy Parker, said he wants to take a lead role in helping curb gun violence. He has also said that he would like to see loopholes in America’s gun laws be tightened.
Parker referred to a California measure that grants law enforcement the right to request that gun owners’ firearms be taken away if the owner is mentally ill. Parker argues that if Virginia were to share the same policy, the murders likely could have been avoided: “[A law like California’s] probably would have prevented this from happening.”
“But there’s a linkage between guns and mental health. And there’s got to be some kind of protocol established so that we keep people from getting guns,” Parker argues.
Others argue that workplaces should help employees spot, prevent, and defend against workplace violence. Since 100 people are killed and 1,000 are attacked on their jobs each year, there is no shortage of articles seeking governmental action that will reduce workplace violence.
Training employees to report threats of violence in work environments and getting professional instruction on how to deal with a dangerously angry coworker helps decrease the threat of violence.
It appears that incidents of workplace violence have been increasing across the country and should be a growing concern since the WDBJ-TV on air assault. Precautions can be taken to protect workers from danger that stems from their coworkers.