Kimberly McBroom, a WDBJ anchor, and Leo Hirsbrunner, right, a meteorologist, with guests on Thursday’s broadcast.
By ERIK ECKHOLM and RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
August 27, 2015
The problems were flagrant, and his boss began to document them, only months after Vester Lee Flanagan II started working as a reporter at television station WDBJ in Roanoke, Va.
He had a “heated confrontation” with another reporter inside a station truck, according to a memo from the news director. He ripped into a cameraman because he did not like the way he was filming, and colleagues said he made them feel “threatened or uncomfortable.” Mr. Flanagan was ordered to obtain counseling from employee assistance or lose his job. He complied, but because of continuing belligerence and other problems he was fired anyway, after less than a year.
Mr. Flanagan stormed out of the news director’s office when told he was being dismissed and slammed a door so hard that nearby workers hid in a locked room. Station officials called the Roanoke police, who came to escort him out, but not before he handed the news director a small wooden cross and said, “You’ll need this.”
The station hired off-duty police officers to guard the building for the next two days and hoped that the problems with Mr. Flanagan were over.
But they were not: More than two years after being fired, Mr. Flanagan shot to death Alison Parker, a young reporter, and Adam Ward, a cameraman he had once worked with, while they were on the air Wednesday on assignment.
It is a nightmare for any employer: what to do with a volatile, constantly aggrieved worker who has had angry, even frightening confrontations with fellow workers — yet has committed no crime. Because he had no convictions and had not been adjudicated mentally ill, Mr. Flanagan was able to legally purchase from a licensed dealer the Glock 19 handgun used in the killings after passing a background check in June, federal officials said.
At a news conference on Thursday, the station manager of WDBJ was asked if there was anything more the station could have done to protect its workers. “We can probably screen more,” the manager, Jeff Marks, said, though he went on to speak about how difficult it is to get an honest …Read More