Joe Gratz/Flickr (PD) | Remix by Jason Reed

Here’s the Virginia shooter’s full racial-discrimination lawsuit

Bryce Williams filed the suit in 2000.

Tech

Published Aug 26, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 2:16 am CDT

The world reeled back in horror Wednesday morning after the televised shootings of WDBJ7 reporters Alison Parker, camera operator Adam Ward, and interview subject Vicki Gardner. 

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Garner is in stable condition after surgery related to a gun wound to her back. Parker and Ward both died on the scene.

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Police say the shooter was Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, now deceased after what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had worked for WDBJ in the past as on-air talent using the name Bryce Williams. The closest thing we have motive so far comes from Flanagan’s tweets on his @bryce_williams7 account, later deleted by Twitter, and a “manifesto” sent to ABC News.

On Twitter, Flanagan appeared to be claiming that he filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) against Parker for making racist comments. WDBJ has said that there’s nothing to this, as Flanagan had been fired (and escorted out of the building by police in the process) in 2013, before Parker started working for the station. Flanagan did file an EEOC complaint against the station, but it was dismissed.

This was not the first time that Flanagan made such allegations against co-workers. In early 2000, he filed a lawsuit against WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida, where he he had just been fired after about a year with the station. The Daily Dot has obtained his original complaint, a later amended complaint, and the station’s answer to the complaints.

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Suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and seeking damages exceeding $15,000, Flanagan alleged that:

  • Around Summer of 1999, a producer, who acted as his supervisor and “held an upper-level management position,” called him a “monkey.” In the aftermath of the incident, he said that he had learned of other black employees who had been called monkeys by “officials affiliated with” WTWC.

  • A few months later, circa October to November, 1999, another WTWC official allegedly told him that it “busted her butt that blacks did not take advantage of the free money,” and that “blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money.” This was apparently a reference to scholarships for prospective African-American college students. When Flanagan explained that he had in fact been a recipient of such a scholarship, she said that he was an exception.

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  • Not long after that alleged incident, around December of 1999, WTWC ran a story about a black murder suspect who had gold and green teeth. One WTWC official allegedly made a comment to Flanagan about how the suspect had green teeth because he had collard greens in his teeth and was “just another thug.” Flanagan asserted that “thug” was “implicating racial bias.”

  • Around the same time frame in late 1999, “another employee/official” allegedly told a tape operator to “stop speaking ebonics.” With regards to just this one allegation, WTWC did admit that “an employee may have made similar comments to another employee, not Plaintiff,” but denied “that such comments are relative to, or indicative of, unlawful employment practices.”

  • Other alleged incidents were not listed in as much detail, like Flanagan claiming one co-worker told another that he only got his job that he was black. When nothing happened, he said he told the station on Dec. 20, 1999, that he was going to file a complaint with the EEOC and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The grievance was filed three days later. Before long, he was told his contract wasn’t being renewed in what he perceived as a retaliatory act.

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WTWC denied that Flanagan ever “complained of unlawful employment practices,” according to court filings, and thus could not have been a victim of retaliation. In their affirmative defenses, WTWC stipulated that they never discriminated or retaliated against him, that “the alleged conduct [Flanagan] allegedly opposed does not give rise to an objectively reasonable belief that the conduct amounted to racial discrimination in employment,” and that the substance of  complaint “does not amount to a hostile environment or discrimination of any kind.” 

As for the “legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for its actions in terminating [Flanagan]’s employment,” WTWC claimed that he:

  • Performed poorly in his job

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  • Had exhibited “misbehavior” with regards to co-workers.

  • Wouldn’t take acknowledge “corrective recommendations on his performance.”

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  • Did not follow directions in general.

  • Would “use profanity on the premises.”

The station also said it underwent budget cuts in November 1999, necessitating layoffs.

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The case was officially settled on January 18, 2001, and dismissed without prejudice or requiring either side to pay the other’s court costs.

Read the full court documents below: 

Photo via oe Gratz/Flickr (PD) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Aug 26, 2015, 7:12 pm CDT