Vester Lee Flanagan, the former TV anchor known as Bryce Williams, killed two journalists during a live broadcast on Wednesday morning in Virginia before shooting himself.
The 41-year-old shot Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, in cold blood at close range while Parker was conducting an on-air interview for WDBJ, a CBS television affiliate in Roanoke, about 240 miles south-west of Washington.
President Barack Obama to the media that such incidents like this shooting breaks his heart. “What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.”
Monsters and Critics spoke to journalist Penny Griego, who worked in radio and television news as an anchor/reporter in Los Angeles (KCBS-TV 2), Denver (KCNC – TV 4) and Albuquerque (KGGM-TV 13). She offered us insight from a reporter’s perspective on the Virginia Shooting.
“As a former TV and radio news reporter, who did more live reports than I can count, I couldn’t help but be shocked and saddened by yesterday’s events in Virginia. The shooting was horrific… literally a public execution. The shock was one thing… but there was also great concern for all the people I know in the business, who are still hitting the streets every day, including my husband. This turned out to be a personal attack, but you can’t help but worry about crazy copycats… or even worse, terrorists who might see just how horrified we were, and how easy it was to perpetrate.”
The father of murdered journalist Alison Parker, Andy Parker, slammed politicians “in the pocket of the NRA” on FOX and CNN.
On FOX, Andy Parker said, ”Everybody that she touched loved her, and she loved everybody back. I’m not going to let this issue drop. We’ve got to do something about crazy people getting guns.”
On CNN today, Parker said the NRA blocks and thwarts any real and sensible gun laws from being passed.
“It’s senseless that her life and Adam’s life were taken by a crazy person with a gun. If I have to be the John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted and advocate of missing children) of gun control…” Andy Parker said.
“Look, I’m for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians who are cowards and in the pocket of the NRA to come to grips and have sensible laws so that crazy people can’t get guns,” he continued.
“It can’t be that hard,” Parker said. “And yet, politicians from the local level, and the state level, to the national level, they sidestep the issue, they kick the can down the road. This can’t happen anymore.”
Advocates of mental health reform are gaining momentum in Congress, but sadly not fast enough to save the Virginia reporting team.
Flanagan, in a 23-page letter sent to ABC News, said societal and work stress had put him on the verge of explosion. A self-proclaimed “powder keg,” Flanagan listed grievances that went back to the first grade of elementary school. Experts are saying he was fighting anger issues and mental demons. But Flanagan was never clinically diagnosed – a conclusion that might have kept him from being able to buy the weapon he used to gun down his former colleagues. Flanagan reportedly also never received any counseling.
Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., is a nationally recognized family and child development expert, author, and educator, and a frequent expert called upon by Monsters and Critics. She agrees that mental health needs to take a priority in the USA.
“Nothing happens in a vacuum and with this shooting, as in many other shootings, the shooter has all but taken out an ad, telling people he’s in trouble and has problems. Whether it was what he wrote on Facebook, or the now-we-know unfounded complaints he made at work, or simply from things his colleagues and friends have said about him, this man was a ticking time-bomb just waiting to go off.”
It was revealed that Flanagan cited white women and black men as a source of both racial and sexual discrimination (Flanagan identified as a black, gay man). In his manifesto given to ABC, he lauded the Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho writing, “…Also, I was influenced by Seung-Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin’.”
He repeats that he was just waiting to explode, “Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace…” It was also revealed that he admitted to killing his cats in a forest, blaming the news station for his animals’ deaths.
Dr. Gross added, ”How many times do we need to be told that we must pay more attention to mental health in our country? And the reason we are mesmerized by events such as this is because we’re social animals who learn through imitation, and we become voyeurs when we see something breakdown in our society that we have no control over… especially in this 24/7 news cycle, where local news has become national news. We always look to the weapon a person uses, but we need to look at the person who’s using the weapon. If a person has cancer, we would understand that he needs medical attention, and that medical attention would have no negative connotation. On the other hand, when someone has mental problems, there is still a cloud of negativity, embarrassment or shame attached. At the end of the day, we have to get serious about the mental issues facing us in our very high-pitched and stressful world.”