The Grudge

I had plans to write about something else but yesterday’s events have left me unable to think very much about anything else. If for some reason you haven’t been paying attention to the news, yesterday during a live TV interview reporter Allison Parker and her camera man Adam Ward were murdered by a former employee of their television station. After murdering them he fled in a rented car and was active on social media while on the run, making the ridiculous claim that Allison and Adam were “racists”…which is something of a pattern for this pile of human garbage. His favorite pastime seems to have been blaming his shortcomings and difficulties on racism and hostility from other people. In a new twist on this sort of horror, he used his cell phone to record video of the murders and posted the videos to his twitter and facebook pages. The video is…horrible.

I should say at this point that I actually interacted with Ms. Parker in previous years. When I saw video of her murder I wasn’t merely shocked…it triggered an unusually visceral reaction that I didn’t quite understand at the moment. It took me a bit to realize that I actually recognized Ms. Parker from having met her in person while she was still a college student. When I shook her hand that day I had no inkling that she was going to become the target of a malevolent narcissist who would delight in murdering her in front of as many people as possible.

Beyond the sheer repulsive horror of what was done to Allison and Adam, there were some surprising aspects of this heinous act that spurred a lot of discussion online. I’m not going to link to the video the malevolent narcissist (As usual, I refuse to use that thing’s name) took because it’s horrible. The video shows the murdering bastard approaching the in-progress interview without notice and actually drawing his handgun and pointing it right at Allison…and even then nobody noticed.

The murderer points his weapon directly at Allison Parker without notice.
The murderer points his weapon directly at Allison Parker without notice.

The murderer actually saw that the camera man was getting a background shot and waited almost ten seconds with his weapon out for the camera man to get Allison back into view before he opened fire. He wanted to murder her on camera on live TV, you see.

This bastard had a grudge and he was going to make sure the world knew.

A lot of people are puzzled by the fact that this bloodthirsty bastard was able to approach, pull a gun, and stand there for an extended period of time with no notice. There’s nothing really puzzling about it. The human mind is only able to focus on so many things at one time. A reporter conducting a live interview has a great deal going through his or her head, and may well be listening to feedback from the studio or control van through an ear piece.

Merely maintaining a real conversation requires a good deal of mental processing power. There is some research that suggests that drivers engaged in conversation experience a drop in driving performance almost equivalent to drunk driving. Violent criminal actors who specialize in street assaults will often take advantage of this by trying to engage you in conversation with a ruse or request to degrade your processing power enough that they can close distance on you and spring the trap.

In the moment pictured, Allison Parker is engaged in a conversation with the interviewee in addition to keeping track of a number of other things important to someone conducting an interview on live TV. Adam Ward is looking through the viewfinder of a camera (which severely restricts his field of vision) and is likely thinking about getting the shot in addition to listening to feedback from the producers in an earpiece of his own. Adam is visible on the right of the picture in the navy blue shirt. The gunman is literally inches away and later will actually start shooting over Adam’s shoulder without notice until the sound of the first shot.

Allison and Adam were task loaded. Busy trying to do their job, their mental and visual focus was narrowed to the point where the murderer was essentially invisible to them until he opened fire. This is a standard feature of human nature. Everybody does it. If you are task loaded or task fixated, you are truly unable to see potential threats in the environment until the ongoing violence directed at you arrests your attention. What you see in the picture is the reason why competent defensive instructors warn against having your head buried in your cell phone when you are out in public or walking to your car in the parking lot. When you are task loaded or task fixated you are every bit as vulnerable as what you see in that picture. As much as it pains me to use that screen grab, as repulsive as I find it, if it helps someone else avoid becoming a victim it’s worthwhile to show it.

To quote William Aprill, the violent criminal actor strikes at the time of his greatest advantage and our greatest disadvantage. In this interview the murderer saw all sorts of opportunity. He had the chance to execute two people who had become the focus of his irrational rage on live TV, and he knew they would be so focused on trying to do their job well (something he could never quite pull off) that they wouldn’t be able to react effectively to preserve their lives.

This pile of filth had a grudge, primarily against the world. He was terrible as a reporter but blamed his shortcomings on “racism” and bigotry by others. Not just at WDBJ7, but at previous workplaces as well. Everyone was out to get him because he was a gay black man, you see. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with being terrible at his job or the fact that he had a history of acting out like an angsty teenager. He swallowed the special snowflake kool-aid and kept gulping it down to the point where he was admiring mass killers at Columbine and Virginia Tech. For a guy obsessed with supposed racism and bigotry of others, he didn’t seem to take much notice that the Virginia Tech shooter murdered black people, too. Expecting reasonable behavior out of a special snowflake is pretty pointless.

I’ve heard many times over the years that the people who act out in bluster and anger like this pile of filth did prior to yesterday’s murders are “all talk”. There are certainly people in the world who will use display in an attempt to intimidate others into submission, (a pretty common tactic in the animal kingdom, especially among primates) but the mindset behind those displays is not simply “all talk” in many cases. I’m reminded of an occasion where I had to interact with an individual who had a reputation for angry displays that most people were either intimidated by or chalked up to being “all talk”. This individual got heated over a trivial matter in a heartbeat and actually threatened to physically assault me. At that point I calmly assured him that if he raised a hand to me I would teach him the meaning of the word “pain”. This calmed him down considerably and I reported his behavior to his superiors…who largely tried to ignore it. A short time later he actually did become physically violent with another person over a trivial matter and they had no choice but to fire him. His displays were not the full extent of his capacity…they were a hint at his willingness to resort to violence to get his way.

The murdering pile of filth who killed Allison and Adam had a history of angry and borderline violent outbursts that eventually led to his firing at WBDJ7. On the day he was fired he had to be escorted out of the building by police. The angry, perpetually aggrieved personality poses a significant risk of violence because they will invent evil on the part of others. When I met Allison some years ago I didn’t get the slightest hint that she harbored any bigotry. If you were to talk to her friends, family, and other people she worked with they would think such an assertion was absurd…and yet this murdering pile of filth felt entitled to execute her because of ridiculous claims like disappearing watermelons and supposedly racist comments that nobody else on the planet ever heard.

We can take a couple of lessons away from this horrible event. Firstly, we can learn why we want to limit the situations and circumstances where we become task loaded and task fixated because it severely degrades our opportunity to perceive and deal effectively with a threat. Secondly, we can look at the behavior of this murdering pile of filth and recognize the signs and the danger of the perpetually aggrieved malevolent narcissist. There is a reason why people around this jackass felt uncomfortable and threatened and it had nothing to do with the color of his skin or who he liked to have sex with. If you feel uneasy about a personality like this asshole odds are it’s not because you are a bigot. It is because you are recognizing, even on a subconscious level, that this person poses a threat.





  1. Well said Tim. I live in Roanoke, & of course we are shocked. I will add that I own a Courier business & I learned long ago to refuse business that required delivering the personal property of someone just fired! Gun Control is not the answer! Better Mental Health Policy, & the added expense therein, will help.

  2. Sad but true, I don’t want to say “good work” given the timing and subject matter (it’s a respect for the decent dead thing).

    The fact is this is a very important lesson pertaining managing information flow/concentration! It’s difficult to manage too many flows of information at once! This is why we have texting while driving laws and a ban on most communication devices while driving commercial vehicles… It divides attention from the very real task at hand.

  3. Thanks for the excellent post. I’d submit it’s equally true that, what he did with a glock in this situation, he could have also done with a steak knife. The task saturation you identified, makes it unlikely that any of the victims could have responded in any meaningful way to their assassin.

    1. I agree. The moment he chose for the attack made the outcome far more than the method he selected.

  4. I wrote a short article as well – – delete link if it violates a rule.

    I understand how people can become task fixated or overloaded but, even the example you gave of driving a vehicle while having a conversation is sort of flawed. Not the example but the study. It does not refer to those who have an extended amount of experience driving – take truck drivers for example, they are professional, they routinely have full on conversations via radio and have no issues at all. Skill set development and experience are huge factors. They were both experienced at their job, they chose to be blinded, unfortunately.

  5. Just as a random thought, what obligation, if any, do organizations have to alert society that they’ve released a problem into the wild? Personnel matters are confidential, and I certainly wouldn’t want any of the HR types I’ve ever known making judgement calls on the fragility of former employees, but…had this incident occured at noon instead of 0645, had the interviewer been interviewing a group rather than one person, had there been a busy sidewalk in the background instead of a deserted walkway, the result could have been a great deal worse than it was.

    I’d be quite surprised if the interviewee who was injured doesn’t sue the television station, not to mention families of the employees who were killed. And, I’d also be surprised if, over time, more businesses did not add some sort of certified psychological profiling to their hiring and annual review processes. Which will, of course, generate more work for attorneys and make it harder for anyone to get hired.

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