By Dave Workman,
The cold-blooded slaying of a Roanoke, VA, television news crew doing a live report at a popular resort sent a shock wave across the country and ignited a new debate about gun control that seemed to carefully avoid much mention that the gunman was African-American, gay and had been disciplined for wearing an Obama button while doing a report on elections.
The man responsible for the carefully planned on-air double homicide claimed in a 23-page fax to ABC News that the Charleston church shooting had “sent me over the top.” That revelation, along with the fact that he bought the handgun legally a few weeks before the attack, seemed to get far less attention than the promise by the father of slain WDBJ reporter Alison Parker that he would “shame” members of Congress into pushing gun control.
Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were fatally shot as they interviewed Vicki Gardner, a representative of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. The suspect, identified as Vester Lee Flanagan, recorded the shooting with a personal video camera. That video and the WDBJ news clip streaked across social media.
Gardner was seriously wounded in the shooting, and underwent surgery at a local hospital.
The Washington Times headlined a report saying that the gunman claimed that “Jehovah spoke to him” after the Charleston shooting, which left nine people dead, and told him to act.
ABC News also reported that the Roanoke shooter, Flanagan, who went by the on-air name of Bryce Williams, allegedly “put down a deposit” on a handgun two days after the church shooting.
However, even before all the facts were in, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was talking about gun control, and specifically background checks, in the wake of the horrific on-air fatal shooting that streaked across social media until it began disappearing from YouTube, Facebook and other venues. However, many cable and network news shows kept reporting on the Internet video.
McAuliffe was quoted by both the Washington Post and Washington Times stating, “There are too many guns in the hands of people who should not have guns…That is why I’ve long advocated for background checks.”
The Times also quoted McAuliffe asserting, “I’m a gun owner, I’m a hunter. But you know what? I went through background checks myself … in America, we have got to come together. There is too much gun violence in the United States of America.”
McAuliffe wasn’t alone pushing gun control. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters after the shooting, “As you’ve heard me say in the past, this is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small across the United States. And while there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence in this country, there are some common-sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country and Congress could take those steps in a way that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans and the president has long advocated Congress taking those steps.”
Flanagan had worked at WDBJ for about a year but was dismissed in 2013. He reportedly filed a lawsuit against the station in May 2014 on grounds of discrimination, but that was dismissed in July 2014. He had earlier filed an action against another station where he worked in Florida.
In the Flanagan video, 13 or 14 shots can be heard, while in the live shot audio from Ward’s camera, eight shots are clearly heard. The first rounds were fired at Parker from just a few feet away, and it appears that the gunman hesitated at one point because Ward had turned his camera lens away from his targets. Once he had returned focus on Parker and Gardner, the Glock semi-auto in the suspect’s hand can clearly be seen as he opened fire.
An Associated Press report quoted WDBJ president and General Manager Jeffrey Marks explaining that Flanagan had been “difficult to work with” and apparently was “looking out for people to say things he could take offense to.” When he was dismissed, Marks said, “he did not take that well.”