VALLEJO, Calif. - People in the Bay Area who knew the suspect in the deadly WDBJ-TV shooting expressed shock at the violent crime that took the lives of a reporter and a cameraman in Roanoke, Virginia, Wednesday morning.
The man responsible for the slaying, 41-year-old Vester Flanagan, has Bay Area ties. He attended Skyline High School in Oakland before graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in Radio/TV.
“This is totally out of character,” said his shocked former Oakland neighbor Virgil Barker. “I can’t believe it and I’ll never believe it, but it happened.”
On Garnet Drive in Vallejo, where the Flanagan family lives and Flanagan once lived, there is shock. “He’s a soft spoken person. A gentle giant,” said former neighbor Rui Pimentel, who was shocked to hear Flanagan seemed to have anger issues, a self-described “human powder keg” ready to explode.
“I didn’t see any of those anger issues,” explained Pimentel. “So I don’t know THAT person.”
Logan Reyes didn’t know Flanagan, but lives in the home he used to live in. “I still get his mail,” Reyes said. “For a person like that who used to live here? It’s a disgrace!”
The Flanagans are well known on their Vallejo street and well liked, but few who spoke to KTVU knew there was a son. They said the senior Vestor Flanagan is a neighborhood fixture, always sitting in front of his house, active in their neighborhood watch.
“He’s like the grandfather of the block. A security blanket for all of us,“ said Ajeet Singh, who lived across the street. “Honestly, if I see him I will just go give him a big hug because I don’t know what it is like, the tragedy that he has had, he also lost a son.”
The younger Flanagan shot himself in the head hours after the deadly attack on his former WDBJ colleagues. His TV career started in San Francisco as an intern and production assistant at KPIX.
Former anchor Barbara Rodgers released a statement Wednesday saying in part, “I don’t remember much about him. It was mainly because of his unusual name that I remembered him at all,” Taylor when ont to say, “He was just a young, eager kid out of journalism school…he just wanted to be on TV and do a good job. Well, now he is on TV, but in the worst possible way.”
Wednesday evening, a Flanagan family spokeswoman came to the family home to read a statement to the media.
“It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward,” spokeswoman Amber Bowman read. “Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victims.”