Cameraman Filmed Gunman's Nasty 2013 Firing

Station bosses told Flanagan to get help
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2015 4:03 AM CDT
Bosses Told On-Air Gunman to Get Medical Help
Flowers, balloons, and cards are left for the staff of WDBJ, as well as cards for Alison Parker and Adam Ward, in front of WDBJ's location in Roanoke, Va., yesterday.   (SALEM TIMES REGISTER)

The Virginia gunman who killed two former colleagues during a live news broadcast yesterday morning had a long and troubling history of clashing with co-workers during his broadcasting career. At WDBJ in Roanoke, where he worked with victims Adam Ward and Alison Parker, Vester Lee Flanagan was ordered to get medical help after racking up complaints from colleagues, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

  • "This is a mandatory referral requiring your compliance," then-news director Dan Dennison told him in July 2012, ordering him to speak to employee assistance professionals. "Failure to comply will result in termination of employment." The station gave him a final warning just before Christmas that year and he was fired three months later.

  • Dennison, who hired Flanagan in 2011, tells Hawaii News Now that when Flanagan was fired, he refused to leave the building and they had to call police to escort him out.
  • In court papers from a lawsuit Flanagan filed against the station, alleging racial discrimination and sexual harassment for being gay, Dennison says that as officers took Flanagan from the newsroom, he threw a hat and a wooden cross at him and said, "You'll need this."
  • As part of the lawsuit, Flanagan accused colleagues of placing a watermelon in a "strategic location" and requested a jury made up of African-American women.
  • According to internal memos, when police escorted Flanagan from the station, Ward videotaped it, reports the Huffington Post. The memos state that Flanagan gave Ward the finger and told him to lose his "big gut."
  • Dennison says Flanagan had many complaints about colleagues, "largely ... along racial lines, and we did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man."
  • In 2000, Flanagan was fired from Florida's WTWC-TV for what the station's former news director says was "bizarre behavior," including threatening colleagues, the AP reports. "He just had a history of playing the race card," a former WTWC anchor tells the Daily Beast.
(Flanagan, who died two hours after shooting himself yesterday, left a 23-page suicide note describing the Charleston church shootings as a tipping point.)

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