WASHINGTON/NEW YORK – The gunman who killed two Virginia television journalists on air had planned the assault well and identified with mass murderers and the Sept. 11 attackers, authorities said on Friday.
The shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II, gave no sign of his destination or next move when he fled after gunning down the journalists from the Roanoke station WDBJ on Wednesday, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
“It is evident that Wednesday morning’s attack was well-planned and premeditated” and Flanagan apparently acted alone, the statement on the shooting investigation said.
Flanagan, a former station employee, fired 17 rounds from a .40-caliber Glock pistol when he attacked reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward as they were conducting a live interview at Smith Mountain Lake in southwest Virginia, the statement said.
Flanagan shot himself during a police chase in northern Virginia and died. The woman who was being interviewed, a local official, was wounded and hospitalized.
Evidence and his writings show that Flanagan “closely identified with individuals who have committed domestic acts of violence and mass murder, as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.,” said the statement. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
The statement said two Glock pistols were recovered from Flanagan’s rental car. No other firearms have been found.
The killings have brought renewed calls for gun control in the United States and in Virginia, where the National Rifle Association gun lobby is headquartered.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, vowed to press ahead with legislation on background checks for gun buyers, although the Republican-led legislature has rejected his efforts on gun control.
Citing a federal law enforcement source, USA Today said Flanagan had legally bought the handguns. He passed a background check despite his apparent emotional problems, it reported.
In a fax to ABC News on the day of the shooting, Flanagan, who was black, called himself a “powder keg” over what he saw as racial discrimination. He was fired from WDBJ, a CBS affiliate, in 2013.
A search warrant for Flanagan’s rental car said police were tipped to him when he sent a text message to a friend “making reference to having done something stupid.”
In the car, police found a pistol, 9-mm ammunition, more ammo magazines and a pistol case. Other items included stamped letters, a to-do list and briefcase with three license plates, a wig and sunglasses, the warrant said.