A man who shot dead a TV reporter and cameraman during a live news broadcast in the US told authorities afterwards he was a “human powder keg…just waiting to go boom!”
In a rambling letter sent to ABC News after former colleagues were gunned down at a shopping centre in Moneta, central Virginia, Vester Lee Flanagan cited a long list of grievances, dating back to the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech and the more recent massacre of worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I’ve been a human powder keg for a while,” 41-year-old Flanagan wrote in the note, “just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
The man described as a “loner” by former colleagues was later found with a gunshot wound after his car crashed following a police chase. He died in hospital.
US President Barack Obama said the shooting was heartbreaking.
He said “it breaks my heart every time” he reads or hears about these kinds of incidents.
“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,” he added.
Police said Flanagan had bought the gun legally.
Flanagan, who used the on-air name Bryce Williams, was a former employee at TV channel WDBJ-TV. According to officials, he was known for being unhappy, angry and hard to work with, and had been sacked.
He had been fired from at least two stations for conflicts with colleagues who described him as an “off-kilter” loner easily angered by office humour.
When he was sacked from WDBJ in Virginia in 2013, he had to be escorted out of the building by local police “because he was not going to leave willingly or under his own free will,” said the station’s former news director, Dan Dennison.
Flanagan had “a long series of complaints against co-workers nearly from the beginning of employment at the TV station,” said Mr Dennison. “All of these allegations were deemed to be unfounded. And they were largely along racial lines, and we did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man.”
The victims of Wednesday’s shooting – reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward – were white; Flanagan was black.
A third person, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, who was being interviewed by Ms Parker, was injured in the shooting.
Ms Parker’s father said the shootings had left the family “numb”. Andy Parker said his daughter “excelled at everything she did”.
The conflict described by Mr Dennison in many ways echoed another, in 2000, when Flanagan was fired from a north Florida television station in 2000 after threatening fellow employees, a former supervisor said.
Flanagan “was a good on-air performer, a pretty good reporter and then things started getting a little strange with him,” said Don Shafer, the former news director of Florida’s WTWC-TV.
He said managers at the Florida station fired Flanagan because of his “bizarre behaviour”.
In 2000, Flanagan sued the Florida station over allegations of race discrimination. The parties later reached a settlement.
Before and after his job in Florida, Flanagan worked at a series of stations around the country, sometimes for just a few months at a time.
After Wednesday’s shootings, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said that video recorded by the station’s camera shows Flanagan holding a weapon.
Video shows Ms Parker carrying out an interview about tourism on Bridgewater Plaza in Franklin County. She smiles before at least eight shots are heard. The camera appears to drop to the ground and the reporter can be heard screaming.
The station then switches back to a shot of a presenter back at the station, who has a shocked expression on her face.
The gunman later posted a video he filmed of the shootings.
The chilling footage shows a gun in his hand, pointing at Ms Parker and her attempting to flee when he opens fire.
The Twitter account used to post the video also included the comments “I filmed the shooting see Facebook”, “Adam went to (human resources) on me after working with me one time!!!” and “Alison made racist comments. EEOC report filed. They hired her after that???”
Mr Ward was 27 and a graduate of Virginia Tech, while Ms Parker had just turned 24 and attended James Madison University.
Mr Ward was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott, who was celebrating her last day on the job and was in the control room, watching it live, as the shooting unfolded.
Ms Parker’s boyfriend was WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst.
He said they had just moved in together and wanted to get married. “I am numb,” he said.