Virginia gunman claims shootings are payback for gay, racist discrimination

By : Wire and Staff Reports
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MONETA, Va. (AP) — Vester Flanagan, the Virginia gunman who killed two co-workers on live television, said he did so because he allegedly had been discriminated against both for being gay and black.

In a 23-page letter sent by fax Aug. 26 to ABC News shortly after the shooting, Flanagan described several instances where he had been harassed. He also wrote “I’ve been a human powder keg for a while, just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Flanagan wrote he bought the gun he used two days after nine black people were killed in a June 17 shooting at a Charleston church and wanted to use it to retaliate for what authorities called a racially motivated shooting. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the gun was purchased legally.

The fatal shooting of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward unfolded on live TV during the early morning show, as tens of thousands of viewers watched a horrified anchor struggle to comprehend what had happened.

Within hours, the carefully scripted carnage carried out by the disgruntled former colleague spread to millions of viewers gripped by what had transformed into a social media storm. The governor initially described a car chase on his weekly radio show, with police on the shooter’s tail on an interstate highway.

Then, social media posts referencing the slain TV pair surfaced on an account under an on-air pseudonym used by the gunman — culminating with a first-person video of the ambush filmed by the shooter.

The 56-second clip shows Flanagan quietly approach Parker and Ward, gun in hand, as they conduct an interview. But Ward’s camera was aimed at the mini-golf course nearby instead of the reporter. So the shooter waited, cursing Parker under his breath, for 20 seconds until the live television picture was back on the reporter. Then he fired eight shots without saying a word.

The attack seemed carefully planned. Flanagan was captured in a rental car he reserved at some point before the shootings; his own Mustang was found abandoned at the local airport, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said. The interview was done at a shopping center not yet open for the day at a remote lake in Moneta, some 25 miles away from WDBJ’s studios in Roanoke. The station promoted where the reporter would be, including a plug on Twitter just a half hour before the shooting.

Their colleagues, stunned and grieving, still covered the story as they would any other to honor the slain journalists.

“Our hearts are broken,” President and General Manager Jeffrey Marks said. “Our sympathy goes to the entire staff here, but also the parents and family of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were just out doing their job today.”

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