Early this morning, a Virginia television news reporter and cameraman were shot dead on live TV.
The suspect, Vester Lee Flanagan, allegedly killed himself following a police chase.
Flanagan is a former co-worker of the two victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. A third victim, Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed by Parker, is reportedly out of surgery and in stable condition.
The shooting may have been related to a workplace dispute. WDBJ7 Station Manager Jeff Marks described Flanagan as an “unhappy man,” who been a difficult employee.
“Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him,” Marks said. “And he did not take that well, we had to call the police to escort him from the building. Since then, well, he then filed an action with the Equal Opportunity Employment Committee in which he made all kinds of complaints.”
Flanagan had previously sued WTWC, a Tallahassee, Fla. NBC affiliate on charges of racism. In his lawsuit, Flanagan had alleged WTWC had tolerated a hostile working environment, where he endured racist slurs from co-workers. The Guardian reports Flanagan alleged he had been called a monkey and had seen another Black employee told to “stop talking ebonics.” The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2001.
Flanagan, who appeared on WDBJ7 under the name Bryce Williams, also tweeted footage of the shooting to a Twitter account under his on-air name. He also accused his former co-workers of racism. He tweeted “Parker made racist comments” and asked “They hired her after that?” The account has been suspended by Twitter.
Several politicians have weighed in on the shooting. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the shooting was another reason why America needed to take the issue of gun violence seriously.
“Heartbroken and angry. We must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer. Praying for the victims’ families in Virginia,” she tweeted.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also called for more gun control laws.
“There are too many guns in the hands of people that shouldn’t have guns,” McAuliffe told WTOP. “There is too much gun violence in America.”
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona, said gun violence was an all-too common occurrence in America.
“We are horrified to learn that two young journalists were murdered this morning doing the jobs they loved,” wrote Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly. “Our country has a gun violence problem, and shootings like these are far too common in our country. Many times, they happen behind close doors, in homes and schools and movie theaters.”