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Could Background Checks Have Prevented the WDBJ-TV Murders?

September 4, 2015

Last month was one of great sadness for America, but a sadness which comes with a bitter sense of familiarity. With the world still reeling from news of the on air murders of a reporter and a cameraman in Virginia, people are once again asking themselves ‘How was this allowed to happen?’

In a country where gun crime is endemic, where few people want to give up the right to bear arms, is it still possible to protect ordinary people? What measures need to be put in place to make sure that people like WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward do not get caught in the cross-hairs of somebody who should have been labeled a danger from the start?

While the details about the life of the shooter have been revealed, the families of the victims and the people of Roanoke are left wondering why after multiple warnings for threatening behavior towards employees, was Vester Lee Flanagan allowed to slip through the net? It is an important question and one that will hopefully be answered in the days and months to come.

The Value of a Good Background Check

For now though, it is worth considering whether a standard employee background check could have done something to prevent the tragedy. The litany of allegations concerning the gunman and his time at WDBJ-TV certainly make for disturbing reading. He was repeatedly cautioned for using aggressive language and physical gestures towards colleagues.

On the day that the station fired him, Flanagan refused to leave the building until the police were called to escort him out. He yelled and threw things at co-workers and it took ten minutes of negotiation before the officers could convince him to leave his desk. The point to be made about all of this is that Flanagan did not become a danger while working at WDBJ-TV.

The rational thinking is that there must have been some sign, some indication of his turbulent mental state before he was employed by the company. Did they carry out a proper and thorough background check to ensure that he was mentally well enough for what was evidently a very social position? Would a complete background check have saved the lives of Adam Ward and Alison Parker?

Making Employee Safety a Top Priority

It is impossible to know the answers to the questions above to a complete certainty, but the reality is that background checks are carried out to protect people from those who might become a threat. If Flanagan had not been hired for a job he was not equipped to deal with, he would not have been given a resignation notice he could not handle, and there is a chance that Parker and Ward would still be alive today.

We cannot stress enough how important it is to carry out background checks on employees – oftentimes, they are the only thing standing between you and a potentially violent employee.

For more help and advice on conducting high quality background checks, get in touch with Radius Investigations at 888.698.0077 today and ask about our Private Investigator background checks service.

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