Former Glenwood TV man fired Virginia gunman
The last time Dan Dennison, a former Glenwood Springs TV newsman, saw Vester Lee Flanagan II, the man who shot and killed two former co-workers on live TV in Virginia last week, Flanagan smiled and waved.
Dennison, who fired Flanagan from WDBJ in Roanoke more than two years ago, assumed that meant the firing, which led to scary times around the station, was water under the bridge.
“You figure if someone has a grievance, it’s going to raise its head long before two and a half years,” he told the Post Independent in a telephone interview Monday.
Dennison, a Gunnison native, was a bureau chief for 9News in Glenwood Springs from 1982 to 1995, before moving to Colorado Springs and later to Roanoke. Although Dennison, now 58 and working for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, noted that Flanagan’s dismissal prompted the only police escort in his years as a news manager, he said the attacks came as a shock.
Police kept security on the building for a couple of weeks, then most employees stopped thinking about it.
“I never really felt physically, personally threatened,” he said.
Reports since the shooting have said that Flanagan had numerous conflicts at the station, often perceiving slights and making co-workers uncomfortable.
Dennison got news of last week’s shooting early in the morning Hawaii time. The emotional impact reminded him in some ways of the Storm King Fire that killed 14 firefighters in 1994 and the Rocky Mountain Natural Gas explosion, which killed 12 in Glenwood in 1985.
“In the news business, we cover other people’s tragedies and heartache,” he said.” You become a little bit hardened.”
The act of violence adds another element.
“It’s so heartbreaking,” Dennison said. “You begin to question what anyone could have done. I think the answer is, likely nothing. When someone wants to bring harm to other people, he’s probably going to find a way to do it.”
Still, Dennison worried about the nonstop media attention and the potential for copycats. He also thinks society as a whole could do a better job of preventing incidents like this.
“We all shoulder some responsibility to identify these folks that need help and get them help,” he said.
On a more personal note, Dennison hired one of the victims, Adam Ward, and remembers Alison Parker as a promising intern.
“It’s a pretty close-knit small city, and it’s had just a tremendous impact on that entire community,” he said. “My heart just bleeds for them and the families of the young people who were killed.”
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Fire investigators are still working on determining the cause of Tuesday’s house fire in Glenwood Springs, which left no one injured but caused extensive damage.