VALLEJO (KRON) — Vallejo residents are in shock after learning that their former neighbor, Vester Lee Flanagan II, fatally shot two reporters on live television. They say it’s difficult for them to see the person they once knew as a well-mannered, soft-spoken gentleman being called a “disgruntled employee” and murderer.
“He was nice looking, well-dressed, very respectful, handsome, groomed…this is totally out of his character as far as I know,” said Virgil Barker, a family friend. Barker and Flanagan’s family were neighbors on Oakland’s 39th Avenue.
Police say that Flanagan, 41, walked up to a WDBJ-TV news crew during an interview Wednesday morning and fired several shots at his former colleagues killing reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photojournalist Adam Ward, 27, live on-air. A third victim, the woman Parker was interviewing, was also struck but survived and is in stable condition.
While investigators are still working to determine a motive for the shooting, Flanagan says in a 23-page manifesto which was faxed to ABC News that he sought vengeance for years of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and workplace bullying.
Barker was visibly distraught over the news. He last talked with the troubled journalist at Flanagan’s mother’s funeral several years ago.
“He’s not a monster that I know of,” Barker said. “Of course what transpired was very egregious…but I’ve never seen him angry.”
Flanagan, who worked as a communications director for a Sacramento tech company from 2004-12, worked out of his Vallejo home on Garnet Drive located about a mile from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
Rui Pimentel and his family lived next door to Flanagan for about three years between 2009-12, which is around the time Flanagan, a self-described “Broadcast Media Professional,” landed a job as a multimedia journalist at WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, VA. Pimentel said that Flanagan was a private person but they would occasionally greet each other.
“He didn’t really leave his house that much, I always assumed because he was working at home,” said Rui Pimentel.
“He was a gentle giant…he was very nice to me and my family,” said Pimentel. “I was shocked.”