From George Zimmerman to Dylann Roof to Bryce Williams

In a manifesto sent to ABC today, Bryce Williams — who shot several people on camera this morning before escaping then killing himself just before he was apprehended — explained that the Charleston Church shooting had been his last straw.

In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II.” He writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.

In his own manifesto, Dylann Roof attributed his own radicalization to white supremacists’ reframing of the Trayvon Martin killing.

The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

Meanwhile, George Zimmerman is selling Confederate Flags to help protect what he sees as the First and Second Amendment rights of a gun shop owner who  has declared his shop Muslim-free.

Update: And now Zimmerman has weighed in:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 6.41.04 PM

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

33 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    And in exceptional America, the answer is always guns. We get it from the very top. Whenever there is the beginning of a dispute or conflict somewhere in the world, the main response of the US government is “What group should we arm?” Is it any wonder, then, with our incredibly lax gun laws, that when Dylann Roof was upset by Trayvon Martin supporters, he got a gun? Is it any wonder that when Vester Flannagan was upset by that solution, he too got a gun?

    But there is another way and we have seen hints recently at both the governmental and personal level. Against all odds, there is the chance of a peaceful resolution to the Iran nuclear issue and arms could well be left out of the resolution. Further, the world stood somewhat aghast when the members of Mother Emanuel Church openly forgave Dylann Roof and urged healing during the memorial for Roof’s victims. Such a response is far too rare, but we can hold out at least a flicker of hope that this better side will come out more often as society learns that the rapid move to arms rarely, if ever, makes a situation better.

    • JohnT says:

      And in exceptional America, the answer is always guns. We get it from the very top. Whenever there is the beginning of a dispute or conflict somewhere in the world, the main response of the US government is “What group should we arm?” Is it any wonder, then, with our incredibly lax gun laws, that when Dylann Roof was upset by Trayvon Martin supporters, he got a gun? Is it any wonder that when Vester Flannagan was upset by that solution, he too got a gun?

      Thank you. That’s what I’ve been trying to say for months

  2. galljdaj says:

    I understand that there are many people that have not done what I have, and when they have not done what I have, a problem gets magnified by our so called and believed liars have done and still are doing, ‘murdering folks all around the World’.

    I made a decision not to kill, to believe in the Rule of Law. Every Day I read examples of our leaders murdering folks and sending weapons to peoples that will do the killings of our leaders. These killings make a mockery of our Rule of Law and our leaders rhetoric of ‘self defense’.

    I believe what our law(s) say about murder and what constitutes a murder. Our leaders fail every sort of ‘test’, but they have made in advance all sorts of weasel wordings that would be disowned by any fair jury! So is it any wonder that as our leaders lead the way(s) to murder, that regular citizens that have not made the thoughtful decision to not murder and resolve to live under the Rule of Law, are now following suit and using killing to resolve there issue(s)?

    I know the stress our leaders killings put on me! And on friends that have killed for our leaders, the stress of those killings and the killings of today by our leaders are ‘nightmares’ to them! The questions comes to us, “should I snap?”, “should I retain my Rule of Law decision?” . Why shouldn’t I have the same right of self defense? The real answer, I don’t have the weasel wording!

  3. orionATL says:

    the rationalizations of mentally disturbed guys – the words have no real meaning other than justifying.

    what these types of messages should tell our national security cowboys in the congress, at the white house, in the doj, at the dhs, at the nsa is that when such muders occurr, we are most often dealing with individual acts of vengeance, not with systematic terrorism. these guys are not acting under leadership whether kkk, tamil tigers, al-quaida, aryan nation, isil, hezbollah, et al. playing politics with these individual behaviors by screaming “terrorism” is an enormous disservice to the nation.

    • orionATL says:

      “the rationalizations of mentally disturbed guys – the words have no real meaning other than justifying.”

      what i mean to imply is that this personality type, unmoored from normal social considerations, can decide to take up any cause anywhere in the world and commit acts of vengeance rationalized by that the stories of that cause, e.g., a morrocan in france, a frenchman in syria, an american in afghanistan….

  4. wallace says: are amazing. Given I am 70yrs old, and have time to scan incoming news on an hourly basis..I have to say. You must have some kind of direct feed from the majority of fiber optic cables. No matter, all I know is you constantly are on top of things happening at the speed of light. I don’t even see on things on Google news before you comment on it here. That’s why I come to your blog. Thanks.

  5. lefty665 says:

    Acts like this are by definition crazy, but we don’t seem to be willing to invest in mental health services. That is especially true in Virginia. The state has for decades been in the low 40s for funding, and what does get funded is mostly locally run and profoundly variable.
    Before we charge off after buzz word feel good gun legislation, as the Gov has already done, how about trying providing supports, like meds and therapy, to people with mental illness? We know what happens when we don’t.

    • bloopie2 says:

      I agree,and while his employer did require him to seek anger management counseling or be fired, I haven’t seen any indication that he was far enough gone that he could be committed against his will. So again it’s a problem of people either voluntarily seeking treatment or getting no treatment at all. Will investing more in mental health services address this problem?

    • orionATL says:

      “let’s cure the mentally ill” is always the gun-friendly cop-out.

      bryce williams might or might not have been stopped by medication and treatment. on the other hand, limiting the availability of hand guns by law, by economics, and by convenience is a very sensible, practical approach to the extraordinary gun-owning and gun-killing health problem the united states has now.

      there really can be no doubt that a country of 300 million + people with almost 300 million guns in private hands is a country inviting gun violence and gun accidents and gun suicides.

  6. bloopie2 says:

    And again, I’d like to hear the Presidential candidates asked these questions: Why should we not allow the audience to carry guns at the debates? Why should we not allow visitors to our legislatures to carry guns? And, do you think your life is more valuable than the lives of the ordinary citizens on the streets who are exposed to gun carriers every day?

  7. lefty665 says:

    Virginia has broad open carry laws. Several years ago when the Lege was considering restrictions a bunch of guys showed up at the sessions carrying. They were allowed in and everyone was very polite.
    Seems likely there’s more to the story about Williams. From what has been published so far, he had been severely distressed for a long time. At Va Tech, Cho had an involuntary treatment order. The mental health folks dropped the ball, both on treatment and notifying the State police so he would be added to the background check list. As a result he bought legally, he passed the background check.
    In almost all the high profile shootings, the guns were purchased legally by people who should not have been able to do that (in Lanza’s case given to him by his mother). For their sake, and ours, we need to do a far better job getting people with severe mental illness treatment. Need to get them on the no buy list too.

  8. Crane-Station says:

    Cannot help but wonder if there is a Tarasoff v Regents of the University of California issue in this case. Hard to believe, given his mental state- as evidenced by the manifesto and suicide note- that Williams/Flanagan was not under the care of a psychiatrist. If that is the case, the question is, did the doctor know anything about his plans… This is pure speculation. So far, I have not seen any mention that he was under the care of a mental health practitioner.

  9. orionATL says:

    in american politics, especially nowadays, follow the money.

    here’s some interesting info implying foreign vorporations’ incentives to manipulate america’s gun-loving rubes:
    [… CompareFirearm Imports (Number) – Customs
    ChartThe annual number of firearms imported to the United States is reported to be

    2011: 3,252,40490
    2010: 2,839,947
    2009: 3,607,10690 75
    2008: 2,606,38690
    2007: 2,743,99390 75
    2006: 2,432,52290
    2005: 2,106,675
    2004: 1,910,859
    2003: 1,466,502
    2002: 1,629,237
    2001: 1,366,89690 75
    2000: 1,096,78290
    1999: 891,799
    1998: 999,810
    1997: 939,415
    1996: 881,578
    1995: 1,103,404
    1994: 1,880,902
    1993: 3,043,321
    1992: 2,846,710
    1991: 720,657
    1990: 843,809
    1989: 1,007,781
    1988: 1,276,268
    1987: 1,063,513
    1986: 701,000 …]
    source –

    i’ve long wondered why the nra has not been investigated for being an unregistered foreign lobbyist. part of the answer may be that the major foreign gun manufacturers have set up shop here gun-sales heaven. the othef part is that it scares the hell out of legislative and law-enforcement politicians.

  10. lefty665 says:

    Restricting the liberty of 300+ million law abiding citizens in an attempt to impact a very small number of people with severe mental illness seems like going after the issue from the wrong direction. That is a huge project that is neither practical or sensible just because you say it is. As with a telescope, it works better if you look through the right end.
    Firearms deaths are mostly by males. In urban areas it is peer homicides, largely minority gang/drug related. In rural areas it is white suicides. A very small number are by people with severe mental illness. We could solve the problem by outlawing testosterone.
    As a society we have done a horrid job both with mental health services and economic opportunity. With the former we could largely alleviate both suicides and psychotic violence. With the latter, education, economic opportunity and ending the idiotic “war” on drugs would go a long way. Then again, prohibiting testosterone is much simpler, and America loves simple, put it on a bumper sticker, solutions.

    • orionATL says:

      “restricting the liberty of 300 million + law abiding citizens …”

      what political claptrap, lefty.
      for the record, gun ownership is not uniformly distributed.

      there is a problem, a serious public health problem, with the large number and the easy availability of guns in this country.

      that problem can be solved with the same sort of sensible solutions we have worked out with other serious problems.

      it won’t be solved by legalistic absolutism about a recently manufactured constitutional “right” – a right manufactured by gun manufacturers’ money and by the political cleverness of their enforcer, the nra.

      i happen to like this particular phrasing regarding the recent rightwing manufacture of the “right” of all those law-abiding god-fearing citizens, gun-bearing :
      “… The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires….”

      chief justice burger

  11. delete tagged says:

    Wow are people comparing this to black lives matter cause the shooter was black?? This is by far not the same thing…police shooter unarmed minorities does not equal a crazy lone shooter going ham because he’s mental smh get it together people.

    • JohnT says:

      Are you making a general statement about the wider discussion in all media, or are you making a statement about this post?
      If it’s about this post, I have no idea what you mean

  12. lefty665 says:

    Don’t believe Warren Burger was anyone’s idea of a profound legal thinker. In recent decades the understanding that the 2nd amendment conveys an individual right has been clearly re-established. You can consign your treasured Burger quote to the dustbin of history, along with Dred Scott. Or perhaps you’d like to quote that too?
    The framers of our Constitution clearly understood from first hand experience, revolution comes out of the barrel of a gun. Mao stood on solid precedent. The Second Amendment is the guarantor of the First, and thus is placed directly behind it. It has been that way since 1791.
    If you want to change the Constitution, that’s a legitimate argument to have. But have it honestly, don’t hide behind “sensible solutions” that obscure what you’re after. While you’re at it, lets address the general warrants that two administrations and several Congresses have embraced with the NSA post 911. Our forefathers felt that was cause to fight when the British did it. Apparently not so much these days. Search and seizure without probable cause, meh.

  13. orionATL says:

    [“…Don’t believe Warren Burger was anyone’s idea of a profound legal thinker. …]

    if anyone would be qualified to make this judgement, lefty, it would be you. :)

    the issue, of course, is not whether burger was a profound thinker, but whether he got his history right.

    did he, lefty? tell us.

    we have a serious public health issue involving guns, lefty. how do we solve it?

  14. lefty665 says:

    Not up to me orion. Check both legal academics and the courts. Scholars and Justices agree, Burger was wrong on this issue, and he was not a particularly bright bulb. OTOH, he was Nixon’s choice, so there’s a testimonial for you.
    See paragraph 3 in my posting #16 above for my take.

  15. der says:

    “Firearms deaths are mostly by males.” “The Second Amendment is the guarantor of the First, and thus is placed directly behind it.”
    And if a woman protests her abuse?
    A New Jersey cop furious over child custody issues ran his ex-wife off the road, then gunned her down in front his young daughter and fellow officers Tuesday morning, authorities said.
    Finds her, assassinates a woman in front of her young daughter while his police colleagues stood by and did nothing.
    The young woman, who was an employee of the mall’s children’s museum, was working at the mall’s information desk around 7:30 p.m. when Kozak, armed with a 9mm Glock handgun, shot her three times in the back, police said.
    Shot her, in the back, 3 times. In the back. While she was trying to save herself. From a gun. In the back.
    “Pow, pow, pow. It sounded like four gunshots. I was too scared to even open the window or anything,” said neighbor Dolores Medrano.

    Police believe Veliz waited in the bushes outside a relative’s home where Armandina Leach, 44, went to drop off their son. The man approached the truck and fired several bullets.
    Hid in the bushes.
    Dylann Roof’s murder of 9, including 6 women, meeting in a church. They invited him in. (to see how we treat the victims go to Wikipedia, try to find their name).
    Now Vester Flanagan, surprise ambush. Alison Parker’s weapon? A microphone.
    Add to this incomplete list the innocents killed in schools, playgrounds and movie theaters.
    Brave men.
    Maybe the NRA has something there. Arm every woman, teach her how to use that 9mm Glock they’re always bragging on, and when a man approaches maybe gets too close and in her comfort zone, put a finger on the trigger, point it, then have a conversation. If with a friend have them cover you.
    Nah, that idea won’t work:
    Saying he had no discretion under state law, a judge sentenced a Jacksonville, Florida, woman to 20 years in prison Friday for firing a warning shot in an effort to scare off her abusive husband.

    Marissa Alexander unsuccessfully tried to use Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law to derail the prosecution, but a jury in March convicted her of aggravated assault after just 12 minutes of deliberation.

  16. bsbafflesbrains says:

    There are allot of guns out there. Biggest immediate problem for public policy is single payer health care to get quality services for both physical and mental health. Poor people have guns and no access or such limited access to health care that it is just like none. I agree with a tweeter I saw yesterday who said “if Newtown shooting didn’t prompt gun control legislation then nothing would. Those children should haunt everyone of the gun lobbyists.

  17. P J Evans says:

    There’s no reason for the number of guns in this country. Very few are fighting off intruders or hunting for food. Having handguns, in particular, is hazardous to everyone in a household.
    I’d like to see the day when the NRA acknowledges those facts and stops pushing more firearms as a solution. (I’d like to see the day when the NRA goes back to being an organization of actual hunters and target-shooters, and not the political lobby for the firearm manufacturers. But that ain’t gonna happen.)

    • orionATL says:

      just how hazardous are handguns? well, somewhere in these statistics is an answer to that question:

      […People of all age groups are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns. On average, states with the highest gun levels had nine times the rate of unintentional firearms deaths compared to states with the lowest gun levels.21…]
      furthermore, from the atlanta journal constitution:

      • orionATL says:

        oh, and lest we forget (those merely injured by gushots):

        “… 73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010. 21 …” (

        think of it – more than 70,000 individuals traumatised in ONE year !

  18. lefty665 says:

    bsbafflesbrains: “Biggest immediate problem for public policy is single payer health care to get quality services for both physical and mental health. Poor people have guns and no access or such limited access to health care that it is just like none.” Exactly!
    “if Newtown shooting didn’t prompt gun control legislation then nothing would.” What would you change? Lanza’s mother legally bought every gun he used, and she taught him how to shoot them. Profoundly stupid on her part, and she paid for it with her life. Do you want to change the Constitution? If so, lets have that as a national discussion.
    Our president ordered a strike that killed one more child and 8 more women than Lanza killed at Newtown. Does that mean if Lanza had only killed more women and children he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?
    Perhaps we could start with policy changes that stop our government from killing innocent people. Policy changes are much simpler than changing our founding documents, and would save more lives. Or do they not count because they’re not ‘muricans and don’t make domestic headlines?

  19. bloopie2 says:

    Trump: “It’s not about the guns, it’s about mental instability.” I dare him to say that when someone is standing in front of him yelling and (maybe) carrying a gun. Is Trump going to want to be in a position where he has to determine whether that person is mentally stable, because that person may be carrying a gun? Or would Trump rather be in a position where he doesn’t have to make that determination, because he knows that person is not carrying a gun? Tell us, kind Sir, which is it?

  20. lefty665 says:

    Another gun statistic, more cops are accidentally injured each year by their own guns than by hostile gunfire. Perhaps if we really cared for our law enforcement officers we would disarm them and cut their firearms injury rate by more than half.
    In addition, every year that would save a currently uncounted number of lives of unarmed citizens shot by cops. Where are the bullet counters when we need them?
    Note from earlier today: Warren Burger apparently didn’t like the 5th Amendment any better than the 2nd. An article he published disparaging the 5th Amendment is at least part of what attracted Nixon to nominate him. Go figure, if there was anyone who ever needed to be able to take the 5th it was Nixon.

  21. wallace says:

    Meanwhile, in a country where gun control is some of the most restrictive on the planet, another person is able to gain possession of an AK-47 regardless of those laws…

    “In other words, “gun control” doesn’t stop the bad guys and only serves to give them a killer advantage over the “law-abiding”? Who knew?”

    File that under “Things that are blindingly obvious to Concealed Carry owners.”

    Meanwhile, the REAL issue of “guns” goes right over the heads of those who would give the government a monopoly on violence. THIS…

    quote”Our president ordered a strike that killed one more child and 8 more women than Lanza killed at Newtown. Does that mean if Lanza had only killed more women and children he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?
    Perhaps we could start with policy changes that stop our government from killing innocent people.”unquote

    In reality, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, also known as the Permanent Five, Big Five, or P5, include the following five governments: United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China, are the BIGGEST GUN RUNNERS ON THE PLANET, and are responsible for arming every political thug and degenerate despots armies and wars since WW11, resulting in BILLIONS of innocent human deaths.

    You want to point a finger? Look at YOUR government. It is the WORLDS LARGEST SUPPLIER OF ARMS. One only need look at Africa..tthe Middle East, Indoneasia..and on and on and on. And you complain about insane people in America killing people??? Hahahahahaha. Insane is a monumental understatement when it comes to International arms dealing. AND DRUGS by the psychopaths in control of the USG. I mean…were talking a cartel of US weapons manufacturers who OWN the USG, which provides weapons across this planet in the millions of small arms and large..IN SECRET..through intermediaries.. who arrange deals on behalf of these insidious Lords of War. Watch this, and you will learn the truth.

    In my universe, these government scumbags are truly the posterchild for the murderous psychopaths of the world. They make Newtown look like a birthday party. If ANYTHING, the DCOTP should be outraged at what our government is doing, notwithstanding demanding the police state murderers be prosecuted. And you want to take MY gun away? Ha. Dream on.

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