Police: Man Shot Churchgoers Over Liberal Views
Monday, July 28, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Children from the Unitarian church where authorities said an out-of-work truck driver shot and killed two people, ended a prayer vigil by singing a song from the musical the gunman interrupted.
At the service Monday, which included candle-lighting and speeches by church leaders, the children came out singing, "The sun will come out tomorrow," a line from the signature song in the musical "Annie."
Gunfire erupted Sunday during the children's performance at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, which authorities said Jim D. Adkisson intentionally targeted because of its congregation's liberal policies. A four-page letter found in Adkisson's SUV indicated he picked the church because, the police chief said, "he hated the liberal movement."
An overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people attended the memorial service at the Second Presbyterian Church next door.
"We're here tonight to make sense of the senseless," the Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, told the gathering.
Adkisson's ex-wife once belonged to the church but hadn't attended in years, said Ted Jones, the congregation's president. Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk declined to comment on whether investigators think the ex-wife's link was a factor in the attack.
Adkisson, 58, who had been on the verge of losing his food stamps, remained jailed Monday on $1 million bond after being charged with one count of murder. More charges are expected. Four victims remained hospitalized, including two in critical condition.
The attack Sunday morning lasted only minutes. But the anger behind it may have been building for months, if not years.
"It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement," Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen said of Adkisson.
A police affidavit used to get a search warrant for Adkisson's home said the suspect admitted to the shooting.
Adkisson "stated that he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country," investigator Steve Still wrote.
Adkisson was a loner who hates "blacks, gays and anyone different from him," longtime acquaintance Carol Smallwood of Alice, Texas, told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Authorities said Adkisson's criminal record consisted of only two drunken driving citations. But court records reviewed by The Associated Press show that his former wife obtained an order of protection in March 2000 while the two were still married and living in the Knoxville suburb of Powell.
The couple had been married for nearly 10 years when Liza Alexander wrote in requesting the order that Adkisson threatened "to blow my brains out and then blow his own brains out." She told a judge she feared for her life.
Calls to Alexander's home were not answered Monday, and the voice mailbox was full.
In Adkisson's letter, which police have not released, "he indicated ... that he expected to be in there (the church) shooting people until the police arrived and that he fully expected to be killed by the responding police," Owen said.
Witnesses said the attack was cut short after audience members tackled the gunman.
The Unitarian-Universalist church advocates women's rights and gay rights and has provided sanctuary for political refugees. It also has fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.
Adkisson told authorities he had no next of kin or family. He lived about a 20-minute drive from the Unitarian church -- one of three in the Knoxville area.
The police chief said the suspect bought the shotgun at a pawn shop about a month ago, and he wrote the letter in the last week or so. A .38-caliber handgun was found in his home.
About 200 people were watching 25 children perform when authorities said the suspect entered and fired three blasts from a semiautomatic shotgun.
No children were hurt, but eight people were shot, including the two who died _ Greg McKendry, 60, and Linda Kraeger, 61.
Jamie Parkey crawled under the pews with his daughter and mother when the second and third shots were fired. He saw several men rush the suspect.
"I jumped up to join them," he told AP Television News. "When I got there, they were already wrestling with him. The gun was in the air. Somebody grabbed the gun and we just kind of dog-piled him to the floor. I knew a police suppression hold, and I sat on him until police came."
Owen said police would not release several videos of the performance by audience members or Adkisson's letter until they have been analyzed for evidence.
Adkisson, who faces his next court hearing Aug. 5, was on active duty with the Army beginning in 1974. Army records show he was a helicopter repairman, rising from a private to specialist and then returning to private before being discharged in late 1977.
Associated Press Writer Duncan Mansfield in Knoxville contributed to this story.