HONOLULU (AP) - The former news director of a Virginia television station says the fired employee who shot two ex-colleagues on live television had a long history of being a “professional victim.”
Vester Flanagan made a variety of claims that he was discriminated against while working at WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, said Dan Dennison, now a state official in Hawaii.
The station took every claim seriously and investigated them, but each claim was found to be inaccurate and baseless, Dennison said Thursday. Most claims were for the use of an innocuous word that Flanagan, who used the name Bryce Williams on the air, would take to be a racial slur, he said.
“Bryce seemed to have a long history that predates his time at WDBJ of being a professional victim,” said Dennison, who was Flanagan’s supervisor. “He was victimized by everything and everyone and could never quite grasp the fact that he was the common denominator in all of these really sometimes serious interpersonal conflicts that he had with people. That he was the source of it.”
Dennison is currently a senior communications manager at the Hawaii state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The station fired Flanagan in early 2013, less than a year after he was hired, for performance issues and conflicts with co-workers.
Dennison said the station had no indication when it hired Flanagan that he would become a problem, noting he had gotten good reviews from his job at a technology company in the San Francisco Bay area. His references checked out.
“He had great reviews. Had he not, we would have never hired him in the first place,” he said.
Flanagan fatally shot 24-year-old Alison Parker and 27-year-old Adam Ward before killing himself Wednesday.
A lawsuit Flanagan filed against the station about a month after he was fired said that a watermelon brought to the station was a racial slur, directed at him.
Dennison said the station’s general manager brought watermelons to the office after a local United Way fundraising campaign during the summer, cut them up in the kitchen and walked around personally to distribute the watermelon to staff members.
One watermelon was left over and sat on a cooler near the back door for several days. Dennison said he took it home and ate it after about the third day because he didn’t want the watermelon to go to waste.
Flanagan “claimed that the watermelon kept appearing and reappearing in the newsroom. I personally never saw it in the newsroom. And I was usually one of the first people to come in every day,” Dennison said.
“We now know he was a deeply disturbed, deeply sick individual, so you don’t know how he was perceiving things. He was not perceiving things at all in an accurate sort of way.”
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