A document, at one point entitled “A Suicide Note for Friends and Family,” may explain the mindset of Vester Flanagan, the man police believe was at the heart of the on-air shooting of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward early Wednesday morning. If authentic, the nearly two-dozen pages are a rambling testament of a man who wrote that he had reached a “tipping point” with regard to racism on June 17 when the Charleston church shootings took place and had a challenge for shooter Dylann Roof’s plans for a race war: “Bring it on.”
Nearly two hours after a reporter and cameraman were shot and killed on live television, ABC News reported August 26 that they had received a 23-page manifesto via fax from a “Bryce Williams,” a name familiar to the agency because he had called several times over the past couple weeks saying he wanted to pitch a story. Although he never pitched the story, he had asked for fax information as well. At 8:26 a.m. (EST), according to ABC News, the faxed document arrived at the agency that detailed Williams’ (who wrote that his real name was Vester Lee Flanagan II) grievances and what had prompted him to commit the shootings at Smith Mountain Lake in western Virginia (which occurred at 6:45 a.m.).
Just after 10 a.m., a man claiming to be Bryce Williams called ABC News again (explaining that his legal name was Vester Lee Flanagan), stating that he had shot two people earlier in the morning. During the brief call, he said authorities are “after me” and “all over the place.” He then hung up.
ABC News contacted the authorities immediately and provided them with the fax. (It was during this period that Vester Flanagan was apparently attempting to elude a manhunt that had begun shortly after he shot the WDBJ-TV (Roanoke) crew team. Authorities, piecing together information later (per the Washington Post), found that Flanagan abandoned a recently rented Mustang, the car he was driving when he killed Parker and Ward, for a second rental to make his escape. But police caught up with Flanagan in Fauquier County on Interstate 66 in northern Virginia. Refusing to pull over and stop, Flanagan had increased speed, lost control of his vehicle and crashed. By the time Virginia state troopers reached the vehicle, Flanagan had shot himself in the head and was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died at 1:30 p.m.)
In the document, Vester Flanagan, writing as Bryce Williams (the name he used when he was a reporter while working at WDBJ, which he did until 2013), wrote: “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…”
“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
Flanagan had a few words for the Charleston church shootings gunman, Dylann Roof, who has since been indicted on federal hate crimes charges. “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!”
In the long and rambling missive, Vester Flanagan, 41, posted an extensive list of grievances. The affronts ranged from sexual harassment and racial discrimination to workplace bullying and personal attacks made against him for being gay.
At one point in the manifesto, Flanagan quotes Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calling him his “boy,” noting how he had killed more during his rampage than the Columbine High School killers. “Also,” he wrote, “I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.'”
Sheriff Bill Overton of Franklin County (where the shootings took place) said, according to USA Today, that the motive for Wednesday’s killings was not clear but described Flanagan as a “disturbed” individual whose life appeared to be “spiraling out of control.” It is not known whether Overton was aware of the Bryce Williams manifesto or not.
Wrote Flanagan (a.k.a. Bryce Wiliams), seeming to provide a motive in forcefully addressing racism and discrimination: “Yes, it will sound like I am angry…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!!!!”
Alison Parker was 24 years old. Adam Ward was 27. Their deaths were recorded on video by Vester Flanagan and posted online. They were quickly removed. A third victim, Vicki Gardner, a local chamber of commerce member who was being interviewed by Parker at the time of the shooting, was taken to and treated at a Roanoke hospital where she is reportedly in stable condition.