He was a fired television reporter with a history of conflicts at work and his rage apparently stoked by racial grievances, from the Charleston church shooting to his claims that he faced discrimination.
And when he sought revenge Wednesday, gunning down two employees from his former station, he used the tools of an oversharing age, ensuring his crime was broadcast live, video recorded from multiple angles and posted on social media.
Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, identified by the authorities as the gunman, waited until Alison Parker and Adam Ward, young journalists at WDBJ in Roanoke, were on air, then killed them while recording on his own video camera.
As the chase for him was on, he wrote about the shooting on Twitter, uploaded his video to Facebook and sent a manifesto to ABC News that spoke admiringly of mass killers and said that as a black, gay man he had faced discrimination and sexual harassment.
Never miss a local story.
The shooting and the horrifying images it produced marked a new chapter in the intersection of video, violence and social media.
Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were killed, according to their TV station, WDBJ of Roanoke, while the person they were interviewing, Vicki Gardner, was wounded and was later in stable condition after surgery.
After leading the police on a high-speed pursuit on the opposite end of the state, the gunman shot himself in the head. He died around 1:30 p.m.
Police and WDBJ identified the gunman as Flanagan, whose on-air name was Bryce Williams. Flanagan, 41, had aired grievances against the station before and after he was dismissed two years ago.
Shortly after the shooting, a post to Flanagan’s Twitter account said, “I filmed the shooting see Facebook,” and a shocking video recording from the gunman’s point of view was posted to his Facebook page. Both accounts were quickly shut down.
ABC News reported that it had received a 23-page fax from Flanagan and had given it to law enforcement officials. A Virginia government official who saw the fax described it as the “rantings of an obviously depressed individual” who mentions suicide.
In the document sent to ABC News, Flanagan, who is black, wrote that the carnage was his reaction to the racism of the recent Charleston, S.C., church shooting.
“The church shooting was the tipping point … but my anger has been building steadily … I’ve been a human powder keg for a while … just waiting to go BOOM!!!!” he wrote.
In the fax, he said that he had suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work, and that he had been attacked by black men and white women. He talked about how he was attacked for being a gay black man.
“Yes, it will sound like I am angry … I am,” he wrote, according to ABC.
Flanagan’s Twitter account referred to a complaint he had filed against the station with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He claimed to have been subjected to racist comments in the workplace.
Jeffrey A. Marks, general manager of the station, said the complaint was dismissed as baseless. Of the racist comments, “none of them could be corroborated by anyone,” he said. “We think they were fabricated.”
At WDBJ, Flanagan “quickly gathered a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with,” Marks said.
Parker and Ward were covering a story Wednesday morning in Moneta, Va. They were interviewing Gardner, a local chamber of commerce leader, at 6:46 a.m. when the shooting began.
In the station’s own disturbing video of the shooting, Parker screams and stumbles backward, and the camera falls to the floor. The camera cuts back to the stunned anchor at the station.
Police officers followed Flanagan, driving a rental car, and troopers tried to pull him over shortly before 11:30 a.m. in northern Virginia’s Fauquier County, but he sped away and crashed. A Virginia official said it appeared Flanagan had shot himself while driving.