The father of a Virginia-based reporter slain during a live television segment Wednesday says he hopes to find purpose in his daughter’s death by pushing for stronger mental health screenings for prospective gun owners.
“I’m not going to let this issue drop,” Andy Parker said during an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. “We’ve got to do something about crazy people getting guns.”
Parker’s daughter Alison, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were killed in the shooting. The victims worked together at WDBJ, a CBS affiliate serving the Roanoke-Lynchburg, Virginia, television market. A former reporter at the station, Vester Lee Flanagan II – known professionally as Bryce Williams – allegedly shot the co-workers. He later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
“I’ve been alternating between the shock and the grief of it,” Andy Parker told Fox News. “I’ve been holding up I guess OK, but I’ve been crying my eyes out all day long. It’s gone back and forth, and now it’s … the anger is starting to creep in there, because this should not happen. It shouldn’t have happened to someone like Alison.”
Parker stood beside his daughter’s boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, during the Fox News interview. The couple had been dating for nine months.
Hurst said he was “not surprised” after Flanagan was identified as the alleged gunman.
“He was someone who was known by people at the station for volatility,” Hurst told Fox News.
Concerns From Colleagues
Flanagan was an “unhappy man,” according to WDBJ general manager Jeffrey Marks, who confirmed on the air that Flanagan had been employed by the station.
Marks said Flanagan “quickly became known for a reputation for being difficult to work with.”
He was known for “looking out for people to say things that he would take offense to,” Marks added.
Flanagan was dismissed from the station two years ago, and was escorted out of the building by police, Marks said.
He also filed a lawsuit against WDBJ in March 2014.
@bryce_williams7/Twitter PHOTO: This image was posted to Vester Flanagan’s Twitter account under his on-air name “Bryce Williams” on Aug. 19, 2015 with the text, “While at a worker’s comp company in Roanoke, Va.”
According to documents obtained by ABC News, station managers told Flanagan to seek medical attention and that his behavior in the workplace made co-workers feel threatened and uncomfortable. The lawsuit, in which Flanagan alleged racial and sexual discrimination, was dismissed in July 2014.
The station denied wrongdoing, investigated his accusations and found them to have no merit, said Marci Burdick, senior vice president of the station’s parent company. Burdick also said the station had no contact with Flanagan since then and did not receive any threats from him.
Almost two hours after the shooting, at 8:26 a.m. Wednesday, a 23-page document was faxed to ABC News. After 10 a.m. a man claiming to be Bryce Williams called ABC News, identifying himself by his legal name, and stating that he shot two people. While on the phone, he said authorities are “after me,” and “all over the place.” He hung up. ABC News contacted authorities and provided them with the fax.
In the document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II. He writes what triggered the carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:
“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”
ABC News PHOTO: Vester Lee Flanagan II, the suspect in the Virginia shootings of a news reporter and cameraman, faxed a 23-page document to ABC News.
Sources say Flanagan’s firearm was legally purchased from a Virginia gun store.
He had no known criminal record.
Virginia’s firearms purchase eligibility test includes 19 stipulations that can prohibit people from purchasing and possessing a firearm, from being under indictment for a felony offense, to substance abuse and treatment for mental health.
Despite Flanagan’s workplace struggles, and his employers’ suggestion that he seek medical attention, he did not fail any of the benchmarks for purchasing a handgun.
“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
A source with direct knowledge of his complaints against the station said a pair of tweets sent following the shooting and attributed to him accurately reflect previous complaints he lodged against the two people he killed: “Alison made racist comments,” and, “Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!” Nowhere in the document does he make specific threats against anyone from WDBJ.
“Yes, it will sound like I am angry,” he writes in his manifesto. “I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”
“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
“And then, after the unthinkable happened in Charleston, THAT WAS IT!!!”
“Yeah I’m all f***** up in the head,” he concedes.
WDBJ PHOTO: WDBJ in Virginia shared these images of reporter Alison Parker and Adam Ward after reporting that they had been killed in a shooting on Aug. 26, 2015.
Making Sense of It All
Andy Parker said that he spoke to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe following the shooting, and that McAuliffe was supportive of any gun control measures that the grieving father pursues.
“I’m going to do something … whatever it takes,” he said.
Andy Parker said he’s trying to reconcile what happened, to make sense of it all.
“She was happy with her place in life. So we can only take some solace in the fact that she had a wonderful life. She was extremely happy, and she loved [Hurst] with all her heart,” Andy Parker said. “That’s the toughest thing for me … everybody that she touched loved her, and she loved everybody back.”
Hurst, appearing Thursday on “Good Morning America,” said he would support Andy Parker’s efforts and that he hopes to bring more attention to mental health issues.
“This happened to two of us, now, in the most deplorable way imaginable, and I don’t know what that says,” Hurst said. “I don’t know what that speaks to, but we need to continue to honor Adam and Alison’s life for as long as we are here. We will not stop honoring their lives, and it will continue, and we are thankful now that there is an opportunity in death for them to be remembered across the world forever for the bright shining lights that they are.”