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.
"If anything can come of this, it's taking up the mantle to once again try to do something to close loopholes so that crazy people don't get guns," Andy Parker told ABC News today. "How many other times is there going to be another Newtown or, you know, another movie theater shooting or Charleston. I want to prevent the next Alison from happening."
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.
"There are more people killed by gun-related deaths than any industrialized country on the planet combined and it's got to stop," Andy Parker added. "And politicians have got to be put on notice and I'm going to be the one to start it and I don't care how much time it takes me."
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.
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…”
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.
Making Sense of It All
Alison Parker's boyfriend, Chris Hurst, appeared today on "Good Morning America," saying 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."
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