Virginia Shooter's Alleged History of Problems at Former TV Station

Vester Flanagan was fired after several months at WDBJ.

ByABC News
August 26, 2015, 10:07 PM

— -- The trail of workplace rage that appears in part to have led a Virginia news reporter to shoot two colleagues today on live television is meticulously -– even hauntingly -– laid out in a long series of memos filed as part of Vester Lee Flanagan’s lawsuit against his onetime employer, WDBJ.

The 167-page file from Roanoke City General District Court documents a series of alleged issues with his former employer -- for whom the victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, also worked -- according to memos written to and about Flanagan by station management.

On May 31, 2012 included in the documents, Flanagan’s news director at the time cited the reporter -– who used the professional name Bryce Williams -– for cursing at his cameraman and berating him in front of an interview subject, the documents say.

“Ultimately, remedying the rift with individual co-workers caused by your behavior is up to you and will take constant and conscious effort,” wrote Dan Dennison. “Any further incidents of inappropriate behavior or situational response that is not professional or leaves a co-worker feeling threatened or uncomfortable will lead to more serious disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”

Two months later, on July 30, Dennison was even more pointed:

“Your behaviors continue to cause a great deal of friction with your co-workers,” he wrote, according to the document.

“Under no circumstances should you engage in harsh language, demonstrate aggressive body language, or lash out at a photographer in front of members of the public,” Dennison continued. “Clearly much damage has been done already in your working relationships with several members of the photography staff. It is your responsibility, going forward, to work at repairing these relationships.”

The news director then ordered Flanagan to contact the station’s employee-assistance program, saying “failure to comply will result in termination of employment.”

Flanagan was hired on March 6, 2012, at a salary of $36,000, the documents show.

He was fired on Feb. 1, 2013 and filed suit 13 months later, accusing the station of sexual and racial harassment and not paying him overtime that he claimed he was due, among other things.

He represented himself in the case, which was dismissed in July 2014. The station denied any wrongdoing, said that it investigated Flanagan's claims and found them meritless, according to Marci Burdick, Senior VP of the station's parent company, Schurz Communications.

Burdick also said that there have been no threats to the station or personnel since Flanagan was fired.

The path from the summer of 2012 to his firing six months later is marked by a decline in his behavior, then improvement and then accusations the documents say.

On Aug. 6, 2012, Flanagan got the lowest possible marks for working with colleagues and the second-lowest for interacting with outsiders.

On Nov. 9, 2012, he was cited by Dennison for violating journalistic standards by wearing an Obama political sticker while waiting to vote. Though superiors acknowledged that Flanagan had not previously received demerits for his ethics, they were concerned that such a problem would only add to the pile of grievances people had with him.

“You need to quickly and diligently move from the category of an employee who commits misstep after misstep to the kind of problem-free employee we hope you can become,” his boss wrote, according to the documents.

“Your disciplinary actions and performance deficits are well documented...We are fast reaching the point where continued violations of company policy or basic journalistic standards could mean termination from employment at WDBJ7.”