Virginia TV journalists killed by suspect with 'powder keg' of anger

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Two television journalists were shot to death during a live broadcast in Virginia on Wednesday, slain by a former employee of the TV station and who called himself a "powder keg" of anger over what he saw as racial discrimination at work and elsewhere in the United States.

The suspect, 41-year-old Vester Flanagan, shot himself as police pursued him on a Virginia highway hours after the shooting. Flanagan, who was African-American, died later at a hospital, police said.

SEE ALSO: Slain TV reporter, cameraman were budding young journalists

The journalists who were killed were reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Both journalists were white, as is a woman who they were interviewing. The woman was wounded and was in stable condition, a hospital spokesman said.

Social media postings by a person who appeared to be Flanagan indicated the suspect had grievances against the station, CBS affiliate WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, which let him go two years ago. The person also posted video that appeared to show the attack filmed from the gunman's vantage point.

Hear what one former coworker remembers about Flanagan:

Former Coworker: 'Vester Lee Flanagan Always Good-Natured, Always Joking'

Flanagan sent ABC News a 23-page fax about two hours after the shooting, saying his attack was triggered by the June 17 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the network said. Nine people were killed, and a white man has been charged in that rampage.

The network cited Flanagan as saying he had suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. He had been attacked by black men and white women, and for being a gay black man, he said.

"The church shooting was the tipping point ... but my anger has been building steadily," ABC News cited the fax as saying. "I've been a human powder keg for a while ... just waiting to go BOOM!"

The on-air shooting occurred at about 6:45 a.m. EDT at Bridgewater Plaza, a Smith Mountain Lake recreation site about 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Washington.

The broadcast was abruptly interrupted by the sound of gunshots as Parker and the woman being interviewed, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, screamed and ducked for cover.

See photos of the slain journalists and reaction to their deaths:

38 PHOTOS
WDBJ Moneta, Virginia on-air shooting
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Virginia TV journalists killed by suspect with 'powder keg' of anger
This undated photo provided by WDBJ-TV, in Roanoke, Va., shows station reporter Alison Parker, left, and cameraman Adam Ward. Ward and Parker were fatally shot on-air Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, by a former staffer in Moneta, Va. (WDBJ-TV via AP)
WDBJ-TV7 news morning anchor Kimberly McBroom, second from right, and meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner, right, are joined by visiting anchor Steve Grant, second from left, and Dr. Thomas Milam, of the Carilion Clinic, as they observe a moment of silence during the early morning newscast at the station, in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. The moment of silence was at the moment reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, while on assignment in Moneta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Members of the WDBJ-TV7 news staff prepare for the early morning newscast at the station, in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. A reporter and cameraman from the station were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, by a former colleague. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
WDBJ-TV7 anchor Chris Hurst, right, hugs meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner during the early morning newscast at WDBJ-TV7, in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Hurst was the fiance of Alison Parker, who was killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, in Moneta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
WDBJ-TV7 news morning anchor Kimberly McBroom, center, gets a hug from visiting anchor Steve Grant, left, as meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner reflects after their early morning newscast at the station, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Roanoke, Va. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, while on assignment in Moneta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
MONETA, VA - AUGUST 26: Police work the crime scene at Bridgewater Plaza on Smith Mountain Lake on August 26, 2015 in Moneta, Virginia. Two employees of WDBJ TV were killed this morning during a live broadcast. The victims have been identified as reporter Alison Parker and camerman Adam Ward. Parker, 24 and Ward, 27, worked for WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. The suspect, Vester Lee Flanigan, also known as Bryce Williams, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. (Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images)

Authorities block Booker T. Washington Highway at Bridgewater Plaza, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Moneta, Va., after two journalists were fatally shot while broadcasting live from the plaza earlier in the day. (Stephanie Klein-Davis/The Roanoke Times via AP)

In this framegrab from video made by the camera of WDBJ-TV cameraman Adam Ward, Vester Lee Flanagan II stands over Ward with a gun after fatally shooting him and reporter Alison Parker during a live on-air interview in Moneta, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Flanagan, who had been an employee at WDBJ and appeared on air as Bryce Williams, posted his own video of the attack on his social media accounts after fleeing the scene. (Twitter via AP)
This undated composite photograph made available by WDBJ-TV shows reporter Alison Parker, left, and cameraman Adam Ward. Parker and Ward were fatally shot during an on-air interview, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Moneta, Va. Authorities identified the suspect as fellow journalist Vester Lee Flanagan II, who appeared on WDBJ-TV as Bryce Williams. Flanagan was fired from the station in 2013. (Courtesy of WDBJ-TV via AP)
MONETA, VA - AUGUST 26: The TV truck that journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward drove before they were killed this morning during a live broadcast sits in a parking lot near the scene on August 26, 2015 in Moneta, Virginia. Two employees of WDBJ TV were killed this morning during a live broadcast at Bridgewater Plaza on Smith Mountain Lake. The victims have been identified as reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. Parker, 24 and Ward, 27, worked for WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. The suspect, Vester Lee Flanigan, also known as Bryce Williams, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. (Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images)
Investigators look at the body of WDBJ-TV cameraman Adam Ward after he and reporter Alison Parker were fatally shot during an on-air interview, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Moneta, Va. Authorities identified the suspect as fellow journalist Vester Lee Flanagan II, who appeared on WDBJ-TV as Bryce Williams. Flanagan was fired from the station. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
This undated photo provided by WDBJ-TV, shows Vester Lee Flanagan II, who killed WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward in Moneta, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Flanagan was a former employee at WDBJ who appeared on air as Bryce Williams. (WDBJ-TV via AP) 
UNITED STATES - August 26: Virginia State Police, as well as local and federal authorities, investigate the scene on Interstate 66 eastbound where Vester Lee Flanagan II crashed his car after being pursued by state police near Linden, Va., Wednesday, August 26, 2015. Flanagan was being pursued after fatally shooting WDBJ-TV cameraman Adam Ward and reporter Alison Parker during an on-air interview in Moneta, Va. Flanagan was a former journalist at the television station, where he appeared on air as Bryce Williams. Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Authorities block Virginia State Route 122 at Bridgewater Plaza, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Moneta, Va., after two journalists were fatally shot while broadcasting live from the plaza earlier in the day. (Stephanie Klein-Davis/The Roanoke Times via AP)
This undated photograph made available by WDBJ-TV shows reporter Alison Parker, left, and cameraman Adam Ward. Parker and Ward were fatally shot during an on-air interview, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Moneta, Va. Authorities identified the suspect as fellow journalist Vester Lee Flanagan II, who appeared on WDBJ-TV as Bryce Williams. Flanagan was fired from the station in 2013. (Courtesy of WDBJ-TV via AP) 
Investigators search garbage from a dumpster near the apartment of Vester Lee Flanagan II, in Roanoke, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Flanagan filmed himself gunning down a WDBJ-TV reporter and cameraman during a live broadcast Wednesday and posted the video on social media after fleeing the scene. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
MONETA, VA - AUGUST 26: Franklin County, Virginia sheriff, Bill Overton speaks to the press on August 26, 2015 in Moneta, Virginia. Two employees of WDBJ TV were killed this morning during a live broadcast at Bridgewater Plaza on Smith Mountain Lake. The victims have been identified as reporter Alison Parker and camerman Adam Ward. Parker, 24 and Ward, 27, worked for WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. The suspect, Vester Lee Flanigan, also known as Bryce Williams, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. (Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images)
A Roanoke police officer moves road cones back into position after letting a vehicle through at WDBJ's Digital Broadcast Center, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Roanoke, Va. Two of the station's journalists were fatally shot while doing an on-air broadcast earlier in the day at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Va. (Erica Yoon/The Roanoke Times via AP)
We love you, Alison and Adam. http://t.co/hLSzQi06XE
It is with extreme sadness that we report WDBJ7's Alison Parker and Adam Ward were killed in an attack this morning. http://t.co/oC9s4vLJXV
Very sad moment in the newsroom as the WDBJ GM confirms that both the reporter and photographer are dead. Senseless http://t.co/qWvWd55UZh
We didn't share this publicly, but @AParkerWDBJ7 and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb. http://t.co/tUrHVwAXcN
We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married.We just celebrated her 24th birthday
Map locates Moneta, Va. (Photo via AP)
Still shots of #WDBJ killer. Please RT. http://t.co/5y3mJLs9nn
#BREAKING #WDBJ shooting suspect Vester Flanagan has shot and killed himself on I-66: http://t.co/3Nx0vOkeIN #WHSV http://t.co/BHVR6QcvTS
The suspect in the #WDBJ shooting is being chased north on I-81
Don't share the video of the shooting Share this link: 12 minutes of the WDBJ crew remembering who these people were http://t.co/m4eWGija1x
Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce was hurt in the shooting. We are told she is in surgery. http://t.co/XLx3pS2I5X
Just hanging out in the newsroom with @jdashiell and Photographer Adam Ward! http://t.co/lyW9cCZ99G
Photog Adam @dowork88 playing with little Ralphie this morning at the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection! http://t.co/TcooX5ZKu6
A "rock star" & a "great journalist." Friends remember #WDBJ journalists killed in shooting: http://t.co/V11VsJB7D7 http://t.co/qI8WGKlIJW
Late journalist Alison Parker in her own words. The video was posted to #WDBJ website earlier this year. http://t.co/gFabZwreK6
I am comforted by everyone at @WDBJ7. We are a family. She worked with Adam every day. They were a team. I am heartbroken for his fiancee.
Heartbroken over senseless murders today in Smith Mountain Lake. State Police on scene working w/ local law agencies to capture suspect.
This is a horrific day for our @wdbj family and the community we serve. http://t.co/LYRDFB8C2R
JUST IN: Reporter and photographer killed after gunman opens fire live on TV http://t.co/sHeTmsOhcm @wsls http://t.co/eZ8XnSdHz2
#WDBJ7 http://t.co/vuceViGwpi
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Hours after the shooting, someone claiming to have filmed it posted video online. The videos were posted to a Twitter account and on Facebook by a man identifying himself as Bryce Williams, which was Flanagan's on-air name.

The videos were removed shortly afterward. In one video, a handgun was clearly visible as the person filming approached the female reporter.

The person purporting to be Williams also posted, "I filmed the shooting see Facebook" as well as saying one of the victims had "made racist comments."

In the fax to ABC News, Flanagan praised shooters who had carried out mass killings at Virginia Tech University in 2007 and at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999.

ABC News said Flanagan called the network shortly after 10 a.m. Flanagan said he had shot two people and that police were after him, and then hung up. ABC News then contacted authorities and turned over the fax, which had arrived about 90 minutes earlier, the network said.

SHOT HIMSELF AS POLICE CLOSED IN

Flanagan shot himself as Virginia State Police were closing in on a rental car on Interstate 66 in Fauquier County, WDBJ7 said. State police said the suspect refused to stop when spotted by troopers and sped away.

Minutes later, the suspect's vehicle ran off the road and crashed, police said in a statement, adding that troopers approached the vehicle to find the driver with a gunshot wound. He was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital near Washington, where he died.

SEE ALSO: Restraint over retweeting urged in Virginia attack video

"It's obvious that this gentleman was disturbed in some way at the way things had transpired at some part of his life," Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton told a news conference.

"It appears things were spiraling out of control, but we're still looking into that," he said. "We still have a lengthy investigation to conduct and that's our focus as we move forward."

Flanagan had sued another station where he worked in Florida for alleged racial discrimination.

Flanagan said he was called a "monkey" by a producer in the lawsuit filed in federal court against Tallahassee station WTWC in 2000. He also said a supervisor at the station called black people lazy. The Florida case was settled and dismissed the next year, court records show.

WDBJ7 President and General Manager Jeff Marks said he knew of no particular connection between Flanagan and the two slain journalists.

Speaking to CNN about Flanagan, he added, "Do you imagine that everyone who leaves your company under difficult circumstances is going to take aim?"

"Why were they (Parker and Ward) the targets, and not I or somebody else in management?" he said.

The station's early morning broadcast showed Parker interviewing Gardner about the lake and tourism development in the area. Gunshots erupted, and as Ward fell his camera hit the ground but kept running. An image caught on camera showed what appeared to be a man in dark clothing facing the camera with a weapon in his right hand.

SEE ALSO: Slain CBS reporter Alison Parker & cameraman Adam Ward's loved ones share heartbreaking tributes

The station described the two dead journalists as an ambitious reporter-and-cameraman team who often produced light and breezy feature stories for the morning program.

"I cannot tell you how much they were loved," Marks said.

They were both engaged to be married to other people at the station.

"My heart goes out to the families affected," President Barack Obama said in a television interview in New Orleans, adding that such gun violence occurs "all too often in this country."

He said the United States needs to do "a better job of making sure that people who have problems, people who shouldn't have guns, don't have them."

Roanoke-area residents brought flowers and food to the WDBJ7 studio late on Wednesday, and parishioners at the Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta, near the scene of the shooting, held a prayer vigil for Gardner.

On-air WDBJ7 personalities, who earlier acknowledged holding back tears as they reported on the deaths of their colleagues, said local ministers had reached out offering support.

According to his social media sites, Flanagan attended San Francisco State University. A university spokesman said he graduated in 1995 with a degree in radio and television.

(Reporting by Emily Flitter, Laila Kearney and Barbara Goldberg in New York and Ian Simpson in Washington; Writing by Frances Kerry and Steve Gorman; Editing by Scott Malone, Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Shumaker)

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