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Virginia TV journalists killed by suspect with 'powder keg' of anger

WORLD
By Reuters | August 27th 2015

USA: Two television journalists were shot to death during a live broadcast in Virginia on Wednesday, slain by a former employee of the TV station and who called himself a "powder keg" of anger over what he saw as racial discrimination at work and elsewhere in the United States.

The suspect, 41-year-old Vester Flanagan, shot himself as police pursued him on a Virginia highway hours after the shooting. Flanagan, who was African-American, died later at a hospital, police said.

The journalists who were killed were reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Both journalists were white, as is a woman who they were interviewing. The woman was wounded and was in stable condition, a hospital spokesman said.

Social media postings by a person who appeared to be Flanagan indicated the suspect had grievances against the station, CBS affiliate WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, which let him go two years ago. The person also posted video that appeared to show the attack filmed from the gunman's vantage point.

Flanagan sent ABC News a 23-page fax about two hours after the shooting, saying his attack was triggered by the June 17 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the network said. Nine people were killed, and a white man has been charged in that rampage.

The network cited Flanagan as saying he had suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. He had been attacked by black men and white women, and for being a gay black man, he said.

"The church shooting was the tipping point ... but my anger has been building steadily," ABC News cited the fax as saying. "I've been a human powder keg for a while ... just waiting to go BOOM!"

The on-air shooting occurred at about 6:45 a.m. EDT at Bridgewater Plaza, a Smith Mountain Lake recreation site about 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Washington.

The broadcast was abruptly interrupted by the sound of gunshots as Parker and the woman being interviewed, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, screamed and ducked for cover.

Hours after the shooting, someone claiming to have filmed it posted video online. The videos were posted to a Twitter account and on Facebook by a man identifying himself as Bryce Williams, which was Flanagan's on-air name.

The videos were removed shortly afterward. In one video, a handgun was clearly visible as the person filming approached the female reporter.

The person purporting to be Williams also posted, "I filmed the shooting see Facebook" as well as saying one of the victims had "made racist comments."

In the fax to ABC News, Flanagan praised shooters who had carried out mass killings at Virginia Tech University in 2007 and at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999.

ABC News said Flanagan called the network shortly after 10 a.m. Flanagan said he had shot two people and that police were after him, and then hung up. ABC News then contacted authorities and turned over the fax, which had arrived about 90 minutes earlier, the network said.

SHOT HIMSELF AS POLICE CLOSED IN

Flanagan shot himself as Virginia State Police were closing in on a rental car on Interstate 66 in Fauquier County, WDBJ7 said. State police said the suspect refused to stop when spotted by troopers and sped away.

Minutes later, the suspect's vehicle ran off the road and crashed, police said in a statement, adding that troopers approached the vehicle to find the driver with a gunshot wound. He was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital near Washington, where he died.

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