Mental health expert calls Va. gunman insidiously dangerous


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The mental state of Vester Lee Flanagan, also known as Bryce Williams, the former reporter at a Roanoke television who gunned down a news crew, was revealed more by his former employer.

The general manager of WDBJ describes him as an unhappy man and difficult to work with when he was fired two years ago.

Two hours after the shootings, Flanagan faxed a 23 page-document to ABC News. He writes that what he did was prompted by the racism behind the Charleston church shooting.

“This is obviously not an emotionally stable person,” said Dr. Harold Schwartz. “This is a very, very angry person who would seem in some ways to be perhaps delusional.”

The psychiatrist-in-chief at Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital also sat on the state panel reviewing the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He describes people like Williams as insidiously dangerous.

“Individuals who shoot this way are very, very self-involved. They are totally enveloped by their anger,” said Dr. Schwartz.

Also in the fax, Flanagan refers to the Virginia Tech mass killer as “that’s my boy right there” and shared his admiration for the Columbine killers. He says his anger had been building.

“I’ve been a human powder keg for a while — just waiting to go BOOM,” he said in the fax.

“I think that we are experiencing a contagion of very highly visible shooting incidents in that every time we see these kinds of things, it dis-inhibits the next person, it gets easier and easier to shoot because you see it more and more. You see others acting out their anger this way,” said Dr. Schwartz.

Flanagan also listed a number of grievances at work, including charges of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying. Dr. Schwartz points out that many people have anger problems, though most can work out their issues.

“These folks [Flanagan] tend to be very self-involved by character, not the kind with resources that would enable them to work their problems out in other ways,” he said. “They seem to feel their anger justifies taking the lives of others.”