Vester Lee Flanagan, the crazed gunman who executed on live morning TV two local journalists who worked at his former station, was told before being fired by the station to seek help for possible mental health issues -- then lingered in Roanoke, Va., for more than two years, living in a squalor amid publicity photos of himself, porn and sex toys.
Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, who went by the professional name Bryce Williams, was ordered by his bosses at local TV station WDBJ to seek help for his frequent problems with coworkers, according to a July 30, 2012 company memo obtained by The Guardian.
"You are required to contact Health Advocate, the employee assistance program," the memo, from then-station director Dan Dennison, said. Williams was given four days to make the call. "This is a mandatory referral requiring your compliance. Failure to comply will result in termination of employment."
It's unclear if Williams did indeed follow up with Health Advocate, but he wasn't terminated from WDBJ until February 2013. Yet even after his firing, he continued living in Roanoke, Va., something that had an unsettling affect on former co-workers.
"A couple of months ago, somebody told me, 'Bryce is still in town,'" former WDBJ reported Justin McLeod told the Roanoke Times. "Several former colleagues were bothered by the fact that he still lived in town."
And when police entered his third-floor apartment on Wednesday, they reportedly found a Spartan living space supplemented by a small computer desk, leather couch, lots of candles and tea lights and plenty of pictures of Flanagan, according to the Daily Mirror.
At least nine photos taken throughout his career adorned Flanagan’s fridge with another publicity shot taped to a wall beside it.
The self-obsessed killer was apparently planning to get away with his murder of Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27. Cops who searched Flanagan's car found a Glock pistol with multiple magazines and ammunition, a white iPhone, letters, notes, a to-do list and a briefcase that contained three license plates, a wig, shawl, umbrella, sunglasses and black hat, according to the Associated Press. Flanagan never got to use any of the disguises, as cops tracked him down on I-66 around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Flanagan shot himself. He later died of the injury.
That Flanagan thought he could get away with murder is less surprising in light of the "arrogant" description of the gunman provided by the neighbor. Someone who lived in Flanigan's apartment complex told the Mirror that Flanagan was “rude and arrogant to everyone and anyone” and would sometimes throw cat feces at the dwellings of neighbors he was in disputes with.
Flanagan had posted a video of a cat to his now-suspended Facebook page on Aug. 20, with the description “I miss my cats!” Police found no sign of the felines at Flanagan’s apartment, according to the Mirror. The manifesto Flanagan sent to ABC News shortly after he committed the murders suggests that he killed the cats.
But cops did find gay porn and sex toys. In a lengthy manifesto he sent to ABC News after the killings, Flanagan said he was bullied at work because he was black and gay.
Flanagan seemingly registered for his Facebook and Twitter accounts just a little over a week ago. The earliest Facebook post dates to Aug. 18 and the earliest tweet to Aug. 19, according to USA Today. His Twitter account was initially littered with baby photos and glamour head shots, interspersed with a picture of his empty bed. Flanagan would later post first-person perspective videos of the killings of former coworkers Parker and Ward to these accounts.
Little is known about what Flanagan did after he was fired from WDBJ-7 in 2013. Pictures shared to Twitter may provide a clue. One photo was taken at what he described as “a worker’s comp company” and Flanagan also posted a selfie at what he said was United Healthcare.
A short video posted to YouTube shows what has been described as a "road rage" encounter with a man who appears to be Flanagan, dressed in a football jersey, camouflage pants and boots. In the video, the man is standing next to a car that matches the description and bears the same license plate as Flanagan's silver Mustang. The person who took the video said he criticized Flanagan's driving while they were stopped at a light on July 6. Flanagan then followed the man to his destination, got out of the car and confronted him. It appears Flanagan is also holding a cell phone and looks to be recording the confrontation, too.
"So are we finished here?" Flanagan says. When the person taking the video again insults Flanagan's driving, Flanagan replies: "Okay, and you need to lose some weight, sir."
A representative for Flanagan's family issued a statement expressing "condolences" for the loved ones of the dead.
“It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward,” the statement said. “We are also praying for the recovery of Vicky Gardner. Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims’ families and the WDBJ7 NEWS family. Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victims. Our family is asking that the media respect our privacy.”