New details emerged Thursday about local CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV's relationship with Vester Lee Flanagan, the ex-TV reporter and gunman who killed two Virginia journalists and wounded another person on live television this week. Jeff Marks, the station's general manager, said Flanagan, 41, was employed by WDBJ-TV from March 2012 to February 2013.
Flanagan's combativeness, difficulties with other station employees and performance problems contributed to his termination, Marks said. On the day he was fired, Flanagan allegedly handed the station's news director a wooden crucifix and said, "You'll need this."
The ex-TV reporter, who filed a complaint of racial discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sued the station in federal court, killed cameraman Adam Ward and on-air reporter Allison Parker Wednesday morning while they were conducting a live interview in Moneta, Virginia. In a suicide note, he alleged racism and homophobia had been directed at him. He died Wednesday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Despite receiving positive employment references for Flanagan, the news station mandated that he submit to a corrective action program following a series of confrontations with colleagues and his "failure to check his facts" in news stories and "generally poor news judgement," Marks said.
When his performance didn't improve, managers informed Flanagan of their decision to terminate his employment. Marks said he reacted negatively, telling the managers that he was "going to make a stink and it was going to be in the headlines."
WDBJ7 general manager released a statement about Vester Flanagan's employment history. http://t.co/gPePjRZZMu
— WDBJ7 (@WDBJ7) August 27, 2015
Marks said a human resources rep at the station had to call 911 to ensure that Flanagan left the station without incident. Employees were told to give Flanagan space to clean out his desk. On his way out by police escort, Flanagan made a derogatory comment to Ward, said Marks, who did not indicate what exactly was said.