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New details on WDBJ shooter's tumultuous work history

An investigation into Vester Flanagan has revealed a history of problems between Flanagan and previous employers
Gunman in WDBJ shooting had troubled past 02:44

ROANOKE, Va. - The disgruntled former reporter who killed a WDBJ-TV cameraman and another reporter had been referred by WDBJ to an employee assistance program that provides counseling during the time he worked there, according to the station.

Boyfriend on WDBJ reporter Alison Parker's love and legacy 07:15

Jeff Marks, general manager of CBS Roanoke affiliate WDBJ-TV, said at a news conference Thursday that 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II was referred to the program after it was determined that he had performance issues and a difficult time getting along with people he worked with.

Flanagan was an on-air reporter for the station between March 2012 and February 2013, when he was fired.

Police say Flanagan took the lives of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, at around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday in Moneta, Va., during a live TV interview as tens of thousands of viewers watched. Vicki Gardner, the woman who was being interviewed on camera, was also shot, but is expected to recover.

Police revealed Thursday they identified Flanagan as a person of interest in the shootings based on his communication with a friend.

In seeking a search warrant for the car Flanagan was driving Wednesday, Virginia State Police had to give a magistrate in Fauquier County probable cause.

"Investigators identified Vestor Lee Flanagan II as a person of interested based on a text message sent to a friend making reference to having done something stupid," police wrote. Flanagan's first name is spelled several different ways in the document.

Police said they put out a lookout for Flanagan and the car was spotted in Fauquier County.

"When troopers attempted to stop the vehicle, the subject operating the vehicle failed to yield and was observed to place an object to his head," police wrote.

Flanagan shot himself in the head and died at 1:26 p.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

In the affidavit, state police wrote that Flanagan's offenses included capital murder, first- and second-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, reckless handling of a firearm and disregarding law enforcement.

CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues reported that when police searched his car, they found Flanagan was carrying extra license plates, a wig, sunglasses and a hat.

Flanagan was traveling with a Glock pistol with multiple magazines and ammunition. He carried a white iPhone, as well as letters, notes, cards and a to-do list. Authorities did not disclose the contents of the to-do list.

Marks said Thursday that when Flanagan applied to WDBJ, he underwent a background check which netted only positive references.

Roanoke station WDBJ remembers reporter, photographer 03:36

After Flanagan was hired, however, his job performance and interactions he had with coworkers led his manager to put him on a "succession of performance improvement plans" and "only slight improvement was noted each time," according to Marks.

In December 2012, Flanagan was placed on a final warning for "failure to check his facts in a news story and, generally, for poor news judgment," Marks said.

According to Marks, in January 2013, Flanagan accused a photographer of causing trouble for him by questioning a decision to go on private property in pursuit of a story. It was at that point that Flanagan raised some concerns with human resources of perceived unfairness. Marks said the claims were investigated and found to be without merit.

Shortly after that, Marks said, Flanagan confronted an anchor who was assigned to review one of his scripts and then management made the decision to "separate him from the company."

According to Marks, once Flanagan was notified of the decision on Feb. 1, 2013, he reacted angrily and said they would have to call the police because he was going to "make a stink and it was going to be in the headlines."

WDBJ-TV7 news morning anchor Kimberly McBroom, center, gets a hug from visiting anchor Steve Grant, left, as meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner reflects after their early morning newscast at the station Aug. 27, 2015, in Roanoke, Va.
WDBJ-TV7 news morning anchor Kimberly McBroom, center, gets a hug from visiting anchor Steve Grant, left, as meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner reflects after their early morning newscast at the station Aug. 27, 2015, in Roanoke, Va. AP Photo/Steve Helber

Police were called and Flanagan was escorted from the building, Marks said. On the way out, he handed a wooden cross to the news director and said, "You'll need this," according to Marks.

Marks said Flanagan also made a derogatory comment toward Adam Ward as he exited.

Following Flanagan's termination, he filed a complaint of harassment and discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was subsequently denied, Marks said. Flanagan then filed a civil action in local court in Roanoke.

According to the Associated Press, Flanagan's lawsuit claimed the station's camera operators conspired against him because of his race. It said a watermelon at the station was a racial slur, directed at him.

NYPD's Miller on why WDBJ shooter was a "classic injustice collector" 03:29

He asked for a trial by a jury comprised entirely of black women. A judge dismissed the case in July 2014, week before the trial date.

Marks said that there were instances where employees of WDBJ reported seeing Flanagan after he was fired, but they were only sightings. No confrontations had been reported and Marks said he was unaware that Flanagan harbored a grudge toward the station or anyone who was employed by it.

During an appearance on "CBS This Morning" on Thursday, New York City's Deputy Police Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller called Flanagan a "classic injustice collector."

"What was his injustice? He viewed himself as a guy who should be here on network television news and unfortunately he found the most terrible way to get there, and to be that lead story, and to be on it," Miller said.

Miller defined "classic injustice collectors" as people who feel they aren't finding success and blame others who they believe stood in their way.

Vester Lee Flanagan

In the days before Wednesday's shooting, ABC News says a man claiming to be Bryce Williams, Flanagan's on-air name, called the network saying he wanted to pitch a story and wanted to fax information. The network says it received a 23-page fax Wednesday morning.

The writer of the fax characterized the shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward as revenge for the shooting inside a church in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this summer that left nine black people dead and prompted federal hate crime charges against a white suspect.

"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...," the faxed document said, according to ABC News.

Family and friends remember WDBJ news crew killed on live TV 03:07

The writer said he suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work -- stemming from him being a gay, black man.

"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!!!!," the fax said.

Pegues reported that law enforcement sources say Flanagan legally purchased two Glock pistols from a Roanoke gun store on July 10.

In the hours after the shooting Wednesday in Virginia, Flanagan posted chilling video of the incident on his Twitter account, along with several messages indicating a personal grudge against the victims.

Posting of shooting video shows crime changing in digital age 05:19

"Alison made racist comments," Flanagan wrote on Twitter, apparently referencing shooting victim Alison Parker. "EEOC report filed."

Another post made an apparent reference to shooting victim Adam Ward: "Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!"

Marks, WDBJ's general manager, however, flatly denied Thursday that his employees did anything wrong, noting that Flanagan alone was probably responsible for any workplace conflicts.

Prior to working at WDBJ, Flangan was employed at WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida. Dave Level told the Associated Press Thursday that he worked with Flanagan at WTWC in 1999 and 2000. He said two women who pointed out mistakes in Vester's reporting were so verbally abused that they feared for their lives. One woman's husband, a law enforcement officer, "threatened to come in and beat the stuffing out of the guy if he talked to her that way again," said Leval, now a sports reporter and anchor at KTVA in Anchorage, Alaska.

Vester was fired from the Florida station. He sued the station for racial discrimination, and the case was settled out of court.

"I can't think of anybody at our station who shed a tear when he left," Leval said.

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