Man Opens Fire in Tennessee Church
Police: Killer targeted liberal church
2 people killed, seven hurt, after man opens fire in Tennessee church
The Associated Press
updated 11:11 a.m. ET, Mon., July. 28, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The man accused of shooting dead two people and wounding seven others at a church apparently selected the congregation because of its liberal social stance, the city's police chief said Monday.
Chief Sterling Owen said police found a letter in the car of Jim Adkisson, who was tackled and held by members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church after the Sunday morning attack.
Owen said Adkisson was apparently frustrated over being out of work and had a "stated hatred of the liberal movement."
The church is known for advocating women's and gay rights and founding an American Civil Liberties Union chapter.
Owen said the letter indicated Adkisson did not expect to leave the church alive and had 76 rounds of ammunition for his 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun.
Adkisson entered the church during a children's performance of "Annie," killing two, including a man witnesses called a hero for shielding others from gunfire.
First-degree murder charge
Adkisson, 58, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting and was held on $1 million bail, according to city spokesman Randy Kenner, who did not know if Adkisson had an attorney.
No children were harmed. Members said they dove under pews or ran from the building when the shooting started.
The slain man was identified as Greg McKendry, 60, a longtime church member and usher. Church member Barbara Kemper told The Associated Press that McKendry "stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us."
Linda Kraeger, 61, died at the University of Tennessee Medical Center a few hours after the shooting, Kenner said.
Five of those injured were in critical or serious condition at a hospital Sunday. Two others were treated and released.
'He was saying hateful things'
Kemper said the gunman shouted before he opened fire.
"It was hateful words. He was saying hateful things," she said, but refused to elaborate.
The FBI was assisting in case the shooting turned out be a hate crime, Owen said Sunday.
The church, like many other Unitarian Universalist churches, promotes progressive social work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women and gays.
Karen Massey, who lived two houses from Adkisson's home, told the Knoxville News Sentinel of a lengthy conversation she had with Adkisson a couple years ago after she told him her daughter had just graduated from Johnson Bible College. She said she ended up having to explain to him that she was a Christian.
"He almost turned angry," she told the newspaper. "He seemed to get angry at that. He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it."
Massey said Adkisson talked frequently about his parents, who "made him go to church all his life. ... He acted like he was forced to do that."
Police took statements from witnesses and collected video cameras from church members who recorded the performance.
Authorities also searched Adkisson's duplex in the Knoxville suburb of Powell on Sunday night but refused to provide any details about what they found. A bomb squad was called in as a precaution.
Neighbors described Adkisson as a friendly man who would often work on his motorcycle outside and go on long weekend rides.
â€˜An incredibly loud bangâ€™
The shooting started as about 200 people watched 25 children perform a show based on the musical "Annie."
Church member Mark Harmon said he was in the first row.
"It had barely begun when there was an incredibly loud bang," he said.
Harmon said he thought the noise was part of the play, then he heard a second loud bang. As he dove for cover, he realized a woman behind him was bleeding. She looked like she was in shock, touching her wound, he said.
"It seems so unreal," Harmon said. "You're sitting in church, you're watching a children's performance of a play and suddenly you hear a bang."
Harmon said church members just behind him in the second and third rows were shot. His wife told him she saw the gunman pull the shotgun out of a guitar case.
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I really hate people like this, I kind of hope he burns in hell for it!
I love Unitarian Universalists - I was judged to be one based on my own religious opinions, I just choose to be agnostic about it, but this pisses me off! I don't think any "liberal" would go into a church and shoot it's members even if we don't like it or them (although I'd certainly love to cause some damage to certain aspects of the Evangelical churches or the Westboro Baptist Church in Kentucky - I swore if I saw Fred or his daughter I'd be more than happy to give them a piece of my mind).