The WDBJ news team held a somber press conference Thursday in Roanoke, VA, wearing ribbons to represent the two young journalists they lost on Wednesday – maroon for Adam Ward’s alma mater Virginia Tech, and teal for Alison Parker’s favorite color. During the press conference, WDBJ Station Manager Jeff Marks cleared up some unclear details regarding Vester Flanagan’s employment at the office before he committed murder on live TV.
Flanagan, Marks said, was hired in March 2012 and passed their standard background check, receiving only positive references.
Soon, however, his unscrupulous work ethic became noticeable. He had poor news judgment and failed to check facts, Marks noted. This behavior led his manager to place him on job improvement plans and, when he didn’t make much progress, on a final warning.
Flanagan, Marks continued, then raised concerns in the WDBJ Human Resource department for unfairness, which was investigated and found to be without merit.
“Management said it was appropriate to let him go,” Marks said.
When they notified him about the news in February 2013, he did not take it well:
“He reacted angrily,” Marks said. “He said he was going to ‘make a stink’ and it would be in the headlines.”
That wasn’t all. Flanagan returned to his desk and had to be physically removed from the building by a police escort. Then, as he was exiting, he handed a wooden cross to the news director and said, ‘you’ll need this.’
On his way out, Flanagan also made a derogatory statement to Adam Ward, one of the victims he murdered in cold blood on Wednesday.
After this tense confrontation, Marks said the only contact between Flanagan and WDBJ were routine calls to HR. The disgruntled employee filed a harassment claim and filed a civil action suit, which was dismissed.
The obvious question, Marks remarked, was what happened in those 2 and a half years?
As always seems to occur in the midst of tragedy, the local community has reached out to the news station with nothing but love and support. Concerned citizens have delivered food, built memorials and held church services for the fallen journalists, Marks shared.
I’ll leave you with the moving tribute Alison's and Adam’s WDBJ colleagues shared Thursday morning.