Former Bay Area reporter who killed Virginia news crew dies by apparent suicide

A man who started his TV journalism career in the Bay Area allegedly shot and killed two former colleagues during a live broadcast in Virginia Wednesday morning and later killed himself while fleeing police.

Franklin County Sheriff W.Q. “Bill” Overton Jr. identified the suspected shooter as reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II, who went by the on-air name Bryce Williams.

Bay Area CBS affiliate KPIX confirmed Flanagan had worked there from 1993-1995. He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1995 with a degree in radio/TV broadcasting.

Flanagan apparently shot himself after a brief car chase later Wednesday morning and was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to Virginia State Police. He died at about 1:30 p.m., Overton said.

He was fired from his job at WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, about two years ago. This morning, he approached reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photographer Adam Ward, 27, during a live broadcast at Bridgewater Plaza near Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County, Virginia.

Flanagan allegedly opened fire as the pair interviewed Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce employee Vicki Gardner at about 6:45 a.m. local time, according to WDBJ. All three were shot, Parker and Ward died from their wounds and Gardner was taken to a hospital, where she had surgery and is recovering.

Flanagan fled the scene before police arrived but was quickly identified as a suspect, Overton said. He drove his 2009 Ford Mustang to a nearby airport and left in a rented Chevrolet Sonic.

A Virginia State Police trooper spotted the Sonic on Interstate Highway 81 and followed Flanagan to Interstate Highway 66 while waiting for backup, according to state police. When they tried to pull him over, Flanagan sped away.

After a short pursuit, Flanagan crashed into the highway’s median. Once troopers caught up with him they found him suffering from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was taken to a hospital but died a short time later.

WDBJ7 general manager and president Jeffrey Marks said during a live broadcast Wednesday that Flanagan left the station about two years ago but remained in the area and apparently tracked down the news crew while watching the live broadcast.

Flanagan was employed as a reporter there. He had TV news experience but had been out of the business for a while. Marks said other employees found him angry and difficult to work with.

“Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him,” Marks said. “He did not take that well, we had to have police escort him from the building.”

Flanagan filed a complaint against the station alleging incidents of racism during his employment there, but Marks said those reports could not be corroborated and he believes they were “fabricated.”

Overton said Wednesday that Flanagan sent a lengthy document about Wednesday morning’s shooting to a news station in New York. The station turned the document over to investigators, but Overton did not disclose any of its contents Wednesday.

“It’s obvious this gentleman was disturbed in some way,” Overton said. “Things were spiraling out of control” for him.

The sheriff said he had met the two victims personally during an interview with the pair weeks ago. He said he was watching the broadcast as the shooting happened this morning.

“I’m not even sure that the individuals who were shot and killed even realized he was there,” Overton said.



Just Posted

It’s not uncommon to find a plastic tampon applicator washed up on the beach. (Courtesy Eva Holman)
The environmental toll of disposable feminine products

Uninhibited feedback by cisgender women is key

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. PHOTO COURTESY SALESFORCE
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

The numbers show nearly 14 percent of San Francisco voters who participated in the Sept. 14 recall election wanted to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from elected office. (Shutterstock photo)
(Shutterstock photo)
How San Francisco neighborhoods voted in the Newsom recall

Sunset tops the list as the area with the most ‘yes’ votes

Alison Collins says that she and other members of San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education facing potential recall “represent constituents that are often erased or talked over.” <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Alison Collins speaks: Embattled SF school board member confronts the recall effort

‘It’s important for folks to know what this recall is about. It’s bigger than any one of us.’

Is the Black Cat incident a distraction from the recovery of The City’s storied nightlife industry or does Mayor London Breed’s behavior inadvertently highlight the predicament the industry’s been in since San Francisco reinstated indoor mask requirements on Aug. 20?<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner, 2021)</ins>
Club owners to maskless mayor: Are we the new fun police?

Black Cat affair highlights difficult recovery for nightlife industry

Most Read