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Background checks can save lives


The world watched in horror as two journalists were shot on live television while broadcasting in Virginia, USA. Graphic footage of the incident from the shooter’s perspective later emerged to shock audiences in every corner of the globe. Could the death and trauma caused by the attack have been prevented if the necessary checks were done prior to the shooter’s employment?


On Wednesday 26 August at 6:45am, WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward were killed by their own colleague on live television in Moneta, Virginia. Parker suffered gunshot wounds to the head and chest while Ward died from wounds to the head and torso.


The two journalists were in the middle of a live interview with Vicki Gardner, the head of Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, about the 50th anniversary celebration for Smith Mountain Lake at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Virginia, when the shooter opened fire.


Ward and Parker died shortly after 6:45am. Incredibly, Gardner was able to walk to the ambulance despite being hit and after an emergency surgery; she is said to be in a good condition, although a couple of centimetres would have meant a very different end.


The police believe the culprit to be a man named Vester Flanagan, who worked at the same TV station as the victims. It is believed that Flanagan, who went by the name “Bryce Williams??? on air, posted a video of the attack on social media from the shooter’s perspective. He fled the scene and was chased by police until he shot himself and later died in hospital.


The footage, which Ward was filming at the time of the attack begins like any routine live news segment, but shots ensue and the clip ends when the camera falls. The video’s existence has since sparked debate about the graphic footage and whether showing it to the public could be seen as voyeurism of a tragic event. Those who witnessed the attack and the colleagues and families of the victims are now left to deal with the trauma of a pointless and horrific incident.


Flanagan claimed to have been mistreated during his time at the TV station, experiencing alleged discrimination as a gay black man. He was also reported as having a troubled past, marked with complaints about his anger and a road rage incident that was caught on camera. Internal documents from WDBJ also described multiple occasions where colleagues complained about Flanagan’s “aggressive” behaviour, where it was suggested that he seek medical help. Flanagan had been dismissed from the station but police were needed to escort him from the building.


So could this all have been avoided?


This attack highlights the importance of performing adequate background checks and screening before appointing any employees in your organisation. With efficient screening procedures, Flanagan’s short temper may have been detected and an acceptable investigation into his past would have revealed a history of aggression. Had these crucial steps been taken prior to Flanagan’s appointment, the lives of two journalists may have been spared.


At iFacts we offer a thorough Employee Screening process typically involves reference inquiries, verification of qualifications as well as credit and criminal history checks. iFacts enables organisations to ensure that current and potential employee candidates have not falsified their personal information and qualifications. This is accomplished through a full bouquet of People Screening Services, including Pre-employment Screening and Background Checks, Individual CV Assessments, Truth Verification, Verification of Qualifications, Vendor Verification and Integrity Assessments.



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