Hawaii official, former news director of WDBJ, describes firing Virginia shooting suspect
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The man suspected of shooting and killing two television journalists in Roanoke, Va. Wednesday morning shot himself about five hours later during a police chase and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Authorities said the suspected gunman, Vester L. Flanagan, worked at WDBJ under the on-air name of Bryce Williams and was described by several people as a disgruntled employee at the station.
Dan Dennison, senior communications director for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, was the news director of the station from 2011 to 2013 and also hired and fired Flanagan during his tenure. In a live interview on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, he said Flanagan, who was hired in 2012, was terminated in 2013, largely for performance issues.
"He had a level of a long series of complaints against coworkers nearly from the beginning of employment at the TV station," Dennison said. "That really had nothing to do with his termination, and after a lot of investigation both internally and externally, all of these allegations were deemed to be unfounded. And they were largely under along racial lines, and we did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man."
Although Dennison said he couldn't share complete details about the incident, he added that Flanagan's termination was one of the toughest he's ever been involved in, so much so that police had to escort Flanagan out of the building because he wouldn't leave on his own free will.
The two victims -- reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photographer Adam Ward, 27 – died after being shot at around 6:45 a.m. ET while conducting a live interview near Roanoke.
"They were both really just great young people and it's such a tragic circumstance," Dennison said. "You just never know, when you're going to work, how a potentially unhinged or unsettled person might impact your life in such a tragic way as we saw in Roanoke this morning."
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