The man police believe shot and killed two journalists and wounded their interview subject during a live segment Wednesday morning has died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, authorities confirmed at a press conference.
Just before 11:30 a.m., Virginia State Police spotted the vehicle of suspect Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, heading east on Interstate 66, according to a statement. A trooper put on his lights but Flanagan sped away, the release said.
"Minutes later, the suspect vehicle ran off the road and crashed," the statement said. "The troopers approached the vehicle and found the male driver suffering from a gunshot wound."
Flanagan used to work for Roanoke-based TV station WDBJ, where the slain journalists, reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, also worked. Flanagan went by the name Bryce Williams on air, multiple outlets report.
A Twitter account associated with Williams' name was suspended Wednesday shortly after two videos of the killings were posted. The same Twitter account also tweeted out several messages that apparently referenced the victims.
Jeff Marks, the general manager of WDBJ, told CNN in an on-air interview that Flanagan "did make accusations against some people some time ago."
"You can never expect someone to come back and act on those issues that were so old," Marks said. "What do you do? Do you imagine that everybody who leaves the company under difficult circumstances is going to take aim?"
Someone claiming to be Williams sent a 23-page fax to ABC News some time between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the network reported. In the fax, the sender says the shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church earlier this summer pushed him over the edge.
"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 fax said. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them."
Several outlets are reporting that Flanagan obtained the 9mm Glock pistol legally, and that he passed background checks to get it.
In the fax to ABC, he also says he's a victim of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, and that he has been targeted for 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!!!!”
San Diego 6 News Director Don Shafer told the California station that he worked with Flanagan in 1996 at an NBC affiliate in North Florida.
"He was a good on-air performer, a pretty good reporter. And then things started getting a little strange with him," Shafer said. "He threatened to punch people out. He was pretty difficult to work with."
Former employees told multiple outlets that Flanagan had violent outbursts. Station news director Kevin Zuber said Wednesday that "many people in the newsroom" had ongoing issues with the suspect.
Shafer said Flanagan was later fired and sued the station for racial discrimination. The case was eventually thrown out.
In a statement released Wednesday night, the family of the suspected gunman expressed their sorrow over the killings. "Words cannot express the hurt we feel for the victims," the family said, requesting privacy from the media.
Vicki Gardner, the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, who Parker was interviewing at the time of the incident, was shot in the back and is undergoing surgery, CNN reports. Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said at the press conference that her injuries are not life-threatening.
Sebastian Murdock, Andy Campbell and Jenna Amatulli contributed reporting.
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place