Virginia TV Station shooting, the Blind leading the Blind

Roanoke, Virginia WDBJ TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were gunned down while working. A third person was also injured by the shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II; a former co-worker at the same TV station. Flanagan later killed himself when cornered by police.

Flanagan, described as a Black homosexual, said he was a “walking powder-keg.” He also claimed his rage was fueled by the Charleston South Carolina shooting. Despite purchasing a gun soon after the Dylan Roof shooting in a SC church, I doubt that was what pushed Flanagan over the edge. He has seen a lot in his 20 plus year career of journalism.

Flanagan, like Dylan Roof, who entered a SC church and shot nine parishioners, looked for and found an excuses to kill, as revenge for their unhappy or troubled lives. But while the nation looks for answers, I see the case ending up being that of the blind leading the blind.

At the very least, I find it insensitive that the cameraman of this TV station would film his co-worker Flanagan, being fired from that station in 2013. Was he ordered to film this firing of a co-worker from their boss? One of the victims in this tragic shooting was that same cameraman. Flanagan however, offered another reason for killing the cameraman.

Minimizing these tragedies is another no, no. Station General manager Jeffrey Marks says, everything in Flanagan’s after the fact, 23 page manifesto was “nonsense.”

Anyone who feels as though they have been wronged and then tried to tell the story — especially two years later —might not be able to articulate his or her experience; no matter how educated they appear to be.

Now, again after the fact, imagine this former employer describing Flanagan’s manifesto as nonsense makes me wonder if there was any serious effort to help or understand a man who had displayed pattern of mental instability.

I and 99.9% of those who are deemed crazy do not pull out a gun even as a last resort. But if we really want to work towards minimizing these type tragedies, from people who have demonstrated themselves to be off, if you will, this nation should not treat manifesto rants as nonsense, even if they are nonsense. What might appear as nonsense to some, might make a lot of sense to someone else who cares.

Another former employer described Flanagan as a “Professional victim.” Though I am no professional in the field of psychiatry, I see all this after the fact assessment as a lack of care for a troubled individual. Was Mr. Flanagan a professional victim or an undiagnosed bipolar?

Instead of seeing to it that he got that help, a third employer terminated Flanagan and told him to go seek professional help. That help if offered and pursued might not have altogether eliminated the chance of this tragedy but certainly could have offered hope in diminishing its likelihood.

When I was ten-years-old, I was selected along with a fellow classmate as guests, to attend a Christmas lunch for an organization that helps the blind. Sitting at this one large table with more than a dozen people, the only two who were not blind were me and my classmate.

The food was great and I figured out why a couple of weeks prior, my father had ask me what I wanted for Christmas. They gave me a Tonka Tow truck, that one did not need eyes to see how happy I was.

On the other hand, my fellow classmate who also received a gift cried the entire time we were there. Why? He thought that sitting next to a blind person, he too could become blind.

1983 to 1993 Bible Study teacher at SF juvenile hall. Currently prison reform activist and author of Case Game - Activating the Activist; an autobiography.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store