Vester Flanagan: What we know about the Virginia television gunman

Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 @ 12:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 @ 4:11 PM

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The man who allegedly shot and killed a television reporter and photographer while they were conducting a live interview for WDBJ reportedly sent a manifesto to ABC News.

The network said someone who identified themselves as Bryce Williams, which was the on-air name used by the shooting suspect, Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, when he worked at WDBJ, called their newsroom multiple times over the last few weeks and then again Wednesday morning claiming he had shot two people.

 ABC News reported on its website that the network received a 23-page fax from someone claiming to be Williams.

ABC News said in the document, Flanagan wrote that a deadly shooting at a Charleston church sparked the shootings.

"Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15... What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims' initials on them," the document said.

Flanagan also refers to Dylann Roof, Virginia Tech mass killer Seung Hui Cho and Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold.

A Twitter account believed to be created by Flanagan tweeted about an EEOC report and also included tweets that said "Alison made racist comments" and "Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!"

Flanagan's Twitter and Facebook accounts were quickly suspended.

The Roanoke Times reported Flanagan worked at WDBJ starting in 2012 after stints in San Francisco, Texas, North Carolina, Tallahassee and Savannah, Georgia. He was dismissed by WDBJ in 2013 and filed a lawsuit in 2014 accusing the station of discrimination. The case was dismissed by a judge.

Virginia State police confirmed that the alleged gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan,  is dead after shooting himself. Police say Flanagan was approached by police on Interstate 66 but refused to stop and sped away. Flanagan crashed his vehicle and was found with a gunshot wound to the head.

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Flanagan was the subject of an intense manhunt after the shootings, which took place on live television Wednesday. The gunman recorded himself carrying out the killings and posted the video on Twitter and Facebook after he fled the scene.

>>Read more about the shootings

WDBJ reporter Alison Parker had been interviewing an economic development official about local tourism as the shots rang out. She screamed, ran and could be heard saying, "Oh my God," as she fell. Adam Ward's camera captured a fleeting image, including the face, of a man holding a handgun. Parker and Ward died at the scene; Vicki Gardner was shot and required emergency surgery. She is expected to live.

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Hundreds of Pittsburgh protesters marching over death of Antwon Rose shut down traffic for miles

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 11:10 PM
Updated: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 1:16 AM

Officer Allegedly Kills Unarmed Teen After Being Sworn In Hours Before

Hundreds of marchers took to the streets of Pittsburgh Thursday night, protesting the fatal police shooting of a teenager during a traffic stop Tuesday night.

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Traffic was brought to a standstill as protesters spilled onto Pittsburgh’s Parkway East.

The protest was described by WPXI reporters on the scene as “tense,” but “peaceful so far.”

Marchers, holding signs and cell phones, sat down in the street, blocking traffic and causing a back up for miles. 

Protestors were told to voluntarily disperse by 1 a.m. Friday. Pennsylvania State Police were preparing to open up the highway, according to state police major commander William Teper. 

Residents are angry and upset over the fatal police shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Antwon Rose.

Allegheny County police officials said that Rose was a passenger in a vehicle stopped in East Pittsburgh around 8:20 p.m. Tuesday because it fit the description of a car seen fleeing the area of a shooting in the nearby borough of North Braddock. As an officer handcuffed the driver of the car, which investigators said had bullet damage to the back window, Rose and a second passenger got out of the car and ran. 

Footage of the shooting posted on Facebook Tuesday shows the scene from a distance. The 18-second video shows Rose and the other passenger, who has not been found by police, get out of the car and make a break for the yard between two nearby houses.

Three shots are heard and one of the passengers appears to fall into the grass.

Rose, who police officials said was struck three times, was taken to McKeesport Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

The Allegheny County medical examiner on Thursday ruled the teen’s death a homicide. 

The East Pittsburgh police officer who shot and killed Rose  was sworn in just hours before the fatal encounter.

Mayor Louis Payne told WPXI Wednesday that the unidentified officer who killed Rose previously spent seven years working in other departments, but confirmed that he was working his first shift following his official swearing in with the East Pittsburgh Police Department.

Pictured is the spot on East Pittsburgh's Grandview Avenue where unarmed teen Antwon Rose was shot and killed by a police officer Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Witnesses said Rose, 17, was shot in the back as he ran from a traffic stop.(Keith Srakocic/via AP)

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Driver surprised by snake surrounding leg while driving

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 8:59 AM

Woman Finds Snake Wrapped Around Leg While Driving

Time to get a new car! 

A woman said she was driving when she felt something on her leg. And it wasn’t her imagination. The unidentified woman saw a six-foot-long snake slithering up her leg, WSPA reported.

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A pest removal service in Rutherford County said that a customer of theirs had a box in her car that she was taking to the dump. The box had been sitting outside and the snake had crawled in. The Bug Man reminded people in its Facebook post about the incident, to always check boxes and planters before moving them. Snakes and other critters can make containers their home.

She called police for help and they got the serpent out of her vehicle using snake tongs, WSPA reported.

The stowaway’s story doesn’t end there. The snake actually got out of its container while police were relocating it, but eventually got out of the police car and made its way into a creek, WSPA reported.

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Teen sucked into drainage pipe by floodwaters, emerges across street

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 10:43 PM

Ben Smith estimates he was trapped in the pipe for about a minute before washing out in a small creek on the other side of the road. (WPXI.com)
Ben Smith estimates he was trapped in the pipe for about a minute before washing out in a small creek on the other side of the road. (WPXI.com)

A Pennsylvania teenager admits he’s lucky to be alive after getting sucked into a drainage pipe underneath a road south of Pittsburgh.

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Ben Smith was helping clear debris from outside of neighbors’ houses during massive flooding Wednesday night.

"There was a quick moment when I thought I wouldn't get out. It felt like I was going down," Smith said. "We were trying to move a van away from it and clear some debris. I went to go after this wood panel and my foot slipped and I just went right under."

Neighbors tried to pull him out, but the floodwater was too strong and Smith was washed away.

He said his instincts and Eagle Scout training kicked in.

"It teaches you to be prepared for any sort of circumstance that comes your way," Smith said. "I knew going against the water would not work at all. So I just tucked in and hoped I could end up somewhere."

Smith estimates he was trapped in the pipe for about a minute before washing out in a small creek on the other side of the road.

He escaped with no broken bones and no major injuries, which shocked his friends and neighbors.

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Weird-looking ancient sea creature named after President Barack Obama; it’s actually an honor

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 10:40 PM

Two new fossils discovered by UC Riverside researchers  in South Australia. The one named after former President Barack Obama, Obamus coronatus, is on the left. The other is named after British naturalist  Sir David Attenborough.
Two new fossils discovered by UC Riverside researchers in South Australia. The one named after former President Barack Obama, Obamus coronatus, is on the left. The other is named after British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Former President Barack Obama was such a friend to science and so passionate about a diverse number of scientific issues that researchers at the University of California at Riverside decided to honor him by naming an ancient sea creature after him.

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Obamus coronatus, translated means Obama crowned, was a disc-shaped, ocean-dwelling sea creature, which lived in the Earth’s shallow oceans between 580 and 540 million years ago, according to UCR researchers. It had raised spiral groves on its surface and scientists believe it was stationary, embedded in the ocean mat, “a thick layer of organic matter that covered the early ocean floor,” according to a statement.

The animals were soft-bodied and lived in the Precambrian era at the dawn of animal life, researchers said. They were discovered in South Australia’s Ediacara Hills in Flinders Ranges as fossils in sandstone that had been preserved for hundreds of millions of years.

These animals “are a new body plan, unlike anything else that has been described,” lead researcher Mary Droser said.

>> Related: New dinosaur with razor-sharp claws and jagged teeth unearthed in Argentina

“We have been seeing evidence for these animals for quite a long time, but it took us a while to verify that they are animals within their own rights and not part of another animal,” Droser said.  

The discovery of Obamus coroanatus was first reported in the online Australian Journal of Earth Sciences on June 14.

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