Who was Vester Lee Flanagan aka Bryce Williams?

Williams reignited the discussion on gun violence, which has taken 8,512 lives so far in the U.S. this year

Published: Updated:

He shocked the world, both those who watched the incident live on their TV screens and the subsequent news followers online, when he decided to gun down WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward while they were live on air in Virginia.

Hours after the shooting, he attempted to flee and a police pursuit then ensued. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a Fairfax hospital around 1:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

So who exactly is Vester Flanagan?

He was an African-American former employee of the same station his victims worked for, but as an anchor went on the air under the name Bryce Williams.

While authorities said they had not determined a motive, perceived racism appeared to be a factor in the shootings, according to posts on social media attributed to the shooter and a fax that ABC News said had been sent by the gunman.

Hours after the shooting, someone claiming to have filmed the shooting posted a video online. The videos were posted to a Twitter account and on Facebook by a man identifying himself as Bryce Williams.

In the posts on the Twitter feed, he accused one of the victims of “racist comments,” and noted that a complaint had been filed with a government agency that enforces discrimination claims.

In a 23-page fax ABC News said was sent two hours after the shooting, he cited as his tipping point the racially motivated shooting that killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this summer.

Saying he had suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work, Flanagan described himself as “a human powder keg,” the network said.


One of his former Florida colleagues remembered Flanagan as “quirky,” but said he never displayed behavior suggesting he would be capable of such a violent crime.

“He had his idiosyncrasies, a little quirky sometimes,” said Michael Walker, the weekend producer at the Tallahassee station when Flanagan was working as a weekend anchor. “It probably wasn’t any different than any other on-air personality.”

Walker, who is also black, said that he had not experienced discrimination at the station.

Flanagan’s 20-year career in journalism included stints at local news stations in San Francisco; Savannah, Georgia; and Midland, Texas, according to his LinkedIn profile. It said he also worked briefly outside of journalism as a customer service representative.

He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1995 with a degree in radio and television, the school confirmed.

According to a Facebook page believed to belong to the suspect, he was originally from Oakland, California, but most recently living in Roanoke, Virginia, where WDBJ7 broadcasts.

There, he gained a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with because of his anger, station manager Jeff Marks said during a live broadcast.

“Vester was an unhappy man,” Marks said, adding that he had to be escorted out of the building by police after he was terminated from the station in 2013