By Duncan Mansfield
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., July 28 -- An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire and killing two people at a Unitarian Universalist church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its support of liberal social policies, including its acceptance of gays, police said Monday.
A four-page letter found in Jim D. Adkisson's SUV indicated that he targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because "he hated the liberal movement" and was upset with "liberals in general, as well as gays," according to Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV.
Adkisson, 58, had a shotgun and 76 shells with him when he entered the church Sunday during a children's performance of the musical "Annie." Six adults were wounded in the attack.
Owen said the letter indicated that Adkisson did not expect to leave the church alive.
Adkisson's ex-wife once belonged to the church but had not attended in years, said Ted Jones, the congregation's president. Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk declined to comment on whether investigators think that was a factor in the attack.
Four people remained hospitalized Monday, including two in critical condition.
On Monday night, an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people attended a memorial service at a church next door to the church. "We're here tonight to make sense of the senseless," the Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, told the gathering.
An usher who died, 60-year-old Greg McKendry, was called a hero for shielding others from gunfire as other church members rushed to wrestle the gunman to the ground.
Linda Kraeger, 61, who was visiting the church, was also killed in the attack.
Adkisson is charged with one count of first-degree murder and remained jailed Monday under "close observation" in lieu of $1 million bail, authorities said. More charges were expected.
Court records from neighboring Anderson County indicate Adkisson threatened violence against his spouse several years ago.