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Ex-FOX TV employee kills himself outside New York headquarters


A former FOX Television Stations employee fatally shot himself outside the company’s New York City headquarters early Monday.

Police say 41-year-old Phillip Perea was distributing business cards outside the News Corporation building near Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan around 9:00 a.m. local time before the shooting took place.

Police say the shooting appeared to have been a suicide. Perea was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Before the shooting, Perea used his personal Twitter account to link to nearly three dozen YouTube videos in which he accused managers his former employer, Austin-based KTBC-TV (Channel 7), of workplace harassment and bullying. Specifically, Perea singled out KTBC general manager Michael “Mike” Lewis, human resources director Lisa Cordes, creative services director Kathie Smith and supervisor Lorena Higuera.

The YouTube videos contained several dozen surreptitious audio recordings of Perea’s interactions with his former co-workers. The files Perea hand-picked for release offer a revealing account of several conflicts he had with managers and other station executives during his time at KTBC.

Perea was hired as a promotions producer working in the station’s creative services department in September 2013. As a promotions producer, Perea was responsible for creating video advertisements for the station’s news broadcasts and outside clients like car dealerships.

The audio tapes reveal Perea’s problems began shortly after he was hired. He was disciplined in December 2013 after he told his direct manager that she was “wasting” his time while the two were working on a project. At a disciplinary meeting, Perea told his manager his insubordination was connected to a new medical regimen he was prescribed to treat attention deficit and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

A copy of a disciplinary memo sent to Phillip Perea during his time at KTBC-TV. Perea posted the memo himself on YouTube. [Image: Phillip Perea/YouTube]
A copy of a disciplinary memo sent to Phillip Perea during his time at KTBC-TV. Perea posted the memo himself on YouTube. [Image: Phillip Perea/YouTube]
Six months later, Perea was again disciplined. During the meeting, he accused Smith of failing to investigate a claim of harassment against Higuera, with whom he could be heard clashing with in several audio recordings posted online. Smith dismissed the accusation, and a second disciplinary memo was placed in Perea’s file.

Perea was eventually fired after he recruited outside help for a promotional video without the permission of the station. In addition, management took offense to an unflattering image of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo that Perea admitted posting to the station’s Facebook page. On a recording posted online, Lewis told Perea that the image he used of the police chief caused tension between the law enforcement agency and newsroom staffers. According to Lewis, Acevedo refused to speak with station reporters for a short time afterward because of the picture.

The final meeting would lead management to suspend Perea with pay. His employment was terminated a few days later.

The following month, Perea began posting snippets of the secret recordings to a YouTube channel under the title “The American Workplace Bully” in which he accused “FOX News” of “ending” his career (21st Century FOX is the parent company of both KTBC and the FOX News Channel). Perea also gave the recordings to the Austin Chronicle newspaper for a separate story.

Perea traveled to New York City over the weekend, according to a close friend who spoke on background. On Monday, he stood in front of the News Corporation building — the headquarters of KTBC’s parent company 21st Century FOX — passing out business cards promoting his YouTube channel until he was confronted by security.

Perea shot himself after the confrontation, according to local news reports. A handgun and a suicide note were recovered at the scene.

In a statement released to employees on Monday, FOX Television Stations executive Jack Abernethy said the company was “deeply saddened by this tragedy.” Station executives did not return an e-mail from The Desk seeking comment.

The Austin Police Department expressed their own condolences in a message posted on Twitter. “APD was saddened to hear about the death of former FOX 7 employee Phillip Perea,” the tweet said. A police spokesperson told The Desk they were unsure if Perea had a criminal record.

Before joining KTBC, Perea worked as a promotions producer for Tyler-based KLTV (Channel 7) and Seattle FOX affiliate KCPQ (Channel 13). During his time at KCPQ, Perea was nominated for several regional Emmy awards.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).