Shooting Suspect Sued Another Newsroom For Racism, Claimed He Was Called A 'Monkey'

Vester Flanagan said a co-worker at the other station was told to "stop talking ebonics."

08/26/2015 01:33 pm ET | Updated Aug 26, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Vester Lee Flanagan, the man who allegedly shot and killed two journalists during a live broadcast on Wednesday, had once filed an extensive lawsuit against a former employer -- not the one targeted by Wednesday's shooting -- alleging that he was a victim of racism.

A Twitter account linked to Flanagan also claimed on Wednesday that one of the victims of the shooting "made racist comments." 

Flanagan was a reporter for WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia, until 2013. He is suspected of killing WDBJ reporters Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Twitter and Facebook accounts bearing his name and photo posted a video that appears to show the double murder.

Flanagan filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in March 2000 against WTWC-TV. According to court documents, Flanagan, who is black, had been employed at WTWC as a newscaster and anchor. He alleged racism in his workplace and retaliation for reporting it. The parties reached a settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed.

Credit: Huffington Post

In the lawsuit, Flanagan claimed that a producer called him a "monkey" and that he was "made aware that other black employees ... had been called monkeys by officials affiliated with defendant."

He said a white "official" told him that "it busted her butt that blacks did not take advantage of the free money," referring to scholarship funds available to African-Americans. He also claimed that a supervisor said that "blacks are lazy."

WTWC-TV denied both of these claims in a court filing. 

Flanagan also claimed that another employee told a black tape operator to "stop talking ebonics." WTWC-TV acknowledged that an employee "may have made similar comments to another employee," but denied that such comments are "indicative of unlawful employment practices."  

Flanagan contended that he notified WTWC-TV that he planned to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and that afterward he was fired.

At the time, the news station denied that his termination was the result of discrimination. It instead cited "poor performance," budgetary reasons and "misbehavior with regards to co-workers."

The station did not respond to HuffPost's request for comment on Wednesday.

Civil court records also show that Flanagan sued Jeffrey Marks, the head of WDBJ, claiming that station owed him money. The lawsuit was filed in March 2014, one year after he was fired from the Roanoke station. The case was ultimately dismissed. WDBJ did not immediately return requests for comment.

On the day of the shooting, the Twitter account associated with Flanagan also implied that one of the shooting victims had an "EEOC report" filed against her.

"Why were they the targets and not I?" Marks asked on CNN on Wednesday, referring to Parker and Ward. He said he was unsure if Flanagan and Parker had even worked at the station at the same time. "They could have overlapped, I just don't have a strong recollection of that," he said. 


A spokesperson for the EEOC told HuffPost that in general, complaints filed with the agency are private. 

Arthur Delaney contributed to this report.

This is a breaking story and will be updated as information becomes available.

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