Floyd Lee Corkins charged in Family Research Council shooting
By Peter Hermann and Keith L. Alexander,
The man authorities say was angry with the conservative stance of the Family Research Council and shot the group’s unarmed security guard in a downtown D.C. office was ordered by a judge Thursday to undergo a mental evaluation.
An FBI affidavit quotes 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins II of Herndon telling the guard, “I don’t like your politics” as he pulled a 9mm Sig Sauer pistol from a backpack he had carried with him on Metrorail from East Falls Church.
D.C. police said that Corkins shot the guard, Leonardo R. Johnson, 46, once in the arm and that Johnson, though wounded, helped subdue the suspect and wrestle the gun from him in the building’s lobby on G Street NW.
In his bag, court documents say, police found 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, which combined with the suspect’s statement added a political dimension to the shooting.
The head of the Atlanta-based fast-food chain has spoken out against same-sex marriage, a stance embraced by the Family Research Council. Corkins had been volunteering at a U Street NW support center for the gay community.
On Thursday, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and the head of the FBI’s District field office visited Johnson’s 72-year-old mother and 102-year-old grandmother at their house in Southeast Washington, and they credited him with preventing a tragedy.
In an interview, Virginia Johnson said she was proud of her son for subduing the gunman and “so happy” to hear the District’s police chief call him a hero.
“I’m sorry for what happened and the way he got hurt,” Virginia Johnson said. She spoke with her son when he called from a hospital moments after she saw news of the shooting on television newscasts.
“Yes, I’d say he was a hero,” she said.
Meanwhile, in U.S. District Court, prosecutors charged Corkins with assault with intent to kill while armed and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. Assistant U.S. Attorney George P. Varghese requested a 24-hour mental evaluation of Corkins, which was granted by Magistrate Judge Alan Kay.
Corkins appeared in a white prison jumpsuit, walking into the courtroom quietly between two U.S. marshals. His right eye was blackened and swollen. As Kay outlined the charges against him, he stood and twirled his thumbs with his hands behind his back.
Kay asked Corkins whether he had enough money to pay for an attorney; he said he did not. “I have about $300,” Corkins said in a soft, clear voice.
During the proceedings, which lasted about 20 minutes, the judge ordered Corkins held without bond until a hearing scheduled for next Friday.
At a news conference Thursday, the president of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, condemned what he called “reckless rhetoric” that labels his organization a “hate group,” saying it incited the shooting.
The Family Research Council’s Web site says it deals in issues of faith, family and freedom; opposes abortion and euthanasia; and considers homosexuality a sin. Perkins told reporters that his group might not have been the only target. But he and his spokesmen declined to elaborate.
“I think maybe, going forward, you may find out more information that we may not have been the only one,” Perkins said in response to a question about why his group was targeted.
Lanier declined to comment on the statement, as did an FBI spokesman, Andrew Ames.
In support of the federal charges, authorities said the gun and ammunition were transported across state lines. Police said they found Corkins’s Dodge Neon parked at the East Falls Church Metro station.
No one answered the door at Corkins’s home Thursday. The FBI affidavit says agents interviewed Corkins’s parents, who said their son “has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner.”
FBI officials have not commented on a possible motive in the shooting.
Perkins said he visited Johnson shortly after he emerged from surgery after midnight Wednesday and reported him groggy but in good spirits.
“This hero business is hard work,” Perkins said Johnson told him.
He said Johnson was more than a guard and was also in charge of building services. Not only did he staff the lobby, he meet with top officials and was briefed on threats and planned protests.
Perkins said Johnson, at the time of the confrontation, was unarmed and was wearing a suit, not a uniform.
Joe Carter, a senior editor of Action Institute, a Michigan-based group that focuses on the economy from a Christian perspective, said he knew Johnson from working at the Family Research Council from 2006 to 2008.
“He was the guy who quietly took care of things,” Carter said.“If someone came into the lobby to do something, they weren’t going to get past Leo.”
Johnson’s mother said she saw the story unfold on TV news and knew even before his name became public that it was her son who had been shot. By the time he called her from the hospital, Virginia Johnson said, “I was crying. I was upset. He was trying to calm me down.”
Virginia Johnson said her son, her only child, graduated from Ballou High School in Southeast and went into the security business. “He’s just a good person who tried to help people and never got into trouble,” she said.
In an interview with WJLA-TV (Channel 7), Leonardo Johnson said from his hospital room that Corkins shot him without warning and that he tackled Corkins without realizing that he had been shot. “I didn’t feel any pain,” he told the station. “I felt my arm snap back so I knew I was hit, but I didn’t feel any pain. . . . Although I didn’t want to get shot, nobody wants to get shot, I feel that God put me in a position to be there at that time.”
At the news conference, Perkins singled out the Southern Poverty Law Center for putting his organization on a list of hate groups, saying that gave the gunman “a license to shoot an unarmed man,” and he urged that the law center be “held accountable for their reckless use of terminology.”
The law center, in a statement, called the accusation outrageous and said the Family Research Council was ”seeking an opportunity to score points” by using the shooting for political purposes.
Mike DeBonis, Justin Jouvenal and Allison Klein contributed to this report.