Two horrific public shootings this past week should be a serious wake-up call for all of us. The first case involved the murder of television reporter Alison Parker, 24 and her cameraman, Adam Ward, 27:

What was particularly shocking about this particular incident was that it occurred on-air, in real time. Viewers could hear the gun shots, as well as the terrified screams of Ms. Parker. The camera, apparently dropped by the cameraman when he too was shot, continued to film, and showed a brief glimpse of the gunman, standing over his victims.

But the really ghoulish aspect of this crime was that the killer, 41-year-old Vester Lee Flannigan, had taken cell-phone video while he was shooting the two journalists, and posted it on Facebook. It was taken down relatively quickly, but not before being viewed by millions of people.

Shortly thereafter, Flannigan was involved in a police chase, which ended when he crashed his car, and then, according to police, shot himself in the head. Flannigan died later at the hospital.

Flannigan, a former news reporter at WBDJ, the same television station where Parker and Ward worked, had been dismissed more than a year earlier for being “difficult to work with,” according to the station manager.

Vester Lee Flannigan had a very chaotic background, not just at WBDJ, but at past places of employment. Flannigan, who was both black and gay, was apparently fired from a number of previous jobs. He filed “discrimination” lawsuits in several cases, all of which were dismissed.

Flannigan was said to react angrily to everyday phrases that he deemed “racist” or “offensive”—comments as innocuous as “have a nice day” and “going out in the field” for assignments. Co-workers described him as going out of his way to find perceived slights or insults.

As for why Flannigan targeted Alison Parker and Adam Ward, no one seems to have an answer. According to Reuters: “WDBJ7 President and General Manager Jeff Marks said he could not figure out a particular connection between Flanagan and the two dead journalists.”


The second case involved what can only be called an execution of a Houston, Texas Sheriff’s Deputy, 47-year-old Darren Goforth, who was simply putting gas in his squad car. Surveillance video shows a gunman, later identified as Shannon Miles, 31, walk up behind Goforth, shoot him in the head, then continue firing, apparently until the gun was empty. The deputy was pronounced dead at the scene.

Unlike the shooting of the two journalists, there appears to be no previous connection between the killer and his victim. However, given that Miles is black, and the victim is a white police officer, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that the anti-cop rhetoric spewed by groups like “Black Lives Matter” might have something to do with the incident. Time will tell.

But what can we learn from these two cases? The shooting of the two journalists clearly shows why our situational awareness should include paying attention to our co-workers, especially when there are “red flags” popping up. Remember that crazy people exist in every occupation, including yours.

The shooting of the deputy in Houston illustrates something all of us should already know: that violent attacks can occur anywhere, without warning. I’ll admit that I now find myself even more observant of my surroundings, but especially when I’m buying gas.

In both of these cases, it could have been me…or you.