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2 killed in Tennessee church shooting; suspect charged


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- A shotgun-wielding man opened fire at a Unitarian church during a children's play Sunday morning, killing two adults and wounding seven others before being overpowered by congregants, officials said.

One of the victims, Linda Kraeger, 61, died at a hospital several hours after the shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Knoxville municipal spokesman Randall Kenner said.

Also killed was Greg McKendry, a 60-year-old usher and board member at the church, police said earlier in the day.

A suspect, Jim Adkisson, 58, of Powell, Tennessee, was charged with one count of first-degree murder, Kenner said Sunday evening.

Adkisson is not believed to have been a member of the Knoxville church, and investigators have not determined a motive for the shooting, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen told reporters.

"[The motive] is one thing we're obviously aggressively pursuing," Owen said.

Five others were hospitalized in either critical or serious condition, police said.
Two other people hurt in the attack were treated and released, Owen said.

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."

Owen told reporters he couldn't comment on whether McKendry confronted the gunman, but he said McKendry apparently "was the first person [the gunman] encountered" in the sanctuary.

Members of the church said a man entered the building at about 10:15 a.m. and began shooting during a children's production of the musical "Annie." About 200 people in the church were watching the production, which was being put on by 25 children, the AP reported.

No child was shot, and a few church members subdued the man and held him until officers arrived, police said. Church members said one of the tacklers was John Bohstedt, a man who had a part in the musical, the AP reported.

"This was a day the church was looking forward to for a long time, and it turned into a nightmare," Bohstedt told Knoxville television station WBIR.

Ken Kitts said he arrived late and saw a couple and a child running out of the church at "super-fast speed."

"Then everybody else started pouring out of the church, lots of them in costume from this show they were putting on," he said.

Inside, he said, was a scene of "absolute chaos," including wounded people and the gunman, who was pinned to the floor by church members.

"He was face-down in middle of a bunch of shotgun shells rolling around on the floor," Kitts said.

Owen said investigators are looking into whether Adkisson has a criminal history. Bail was set at $1 million late Sunday.

"We don't know this particular individual. We may never know why," said Steve Drevik, a church member who arrived after the shooting. "All of this will come out in the next couple of days."

Rick Lambert, the FBI agent in charge of the bureau's Knoxville office, said federal agents are assisting Knoxville police with witness interviews and could help analyze evidence from the crime scene. He said the bureau is examining whether the attack was a hate crime.

"Anytime there is a shooting in a church, there is the possibility it could be a hate crime," he said.

The church, on its Web site, describes itself as a community that has worked for social change -- including desegregation, women's rights and gay rights -- since the 1950s.

Police said people were recording videos of the children's performance when the shooting happened, and investigators were reviewing the videos. Information on what, if anything, the videos show of the shooting wasn't immediately available.

The church's minister, Chris Buice, said he was on vacation when the shooting happened but rushed back when he heard what occurred. Sunday afternoon -- after McKendry's death but before Kraeger's -- he spoke briefly to reporters.

"Please pray for this congregation, because we are grieving the loss of a wonderful man," Buice said as he choked back tears.

Sunday's attack was the fourth time in 15 months that an American church became a scene of a fatal shooting.

In December 2007, a 24-year-old former missionary candidate killed two people at a suburban Denver, Colorado, missionary training center and two more at a Colorado Springs megachurch the following day. The gunman, Matthew Murray, killed himself after being shot by a security guard.
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The previous August, police said, 52-year-old Eiken Saimon shot and killed three people and wounded five others at a Congregational church in Neosho, Missouri. The attack left three people dead and five wounded.

And that May, in Moscow, Idaho, 36-year-old Jason Hamilton fatally shot a police officer and a sexton at First Presbyterian Church, then killed himself before police stormed the building. Hamilton's wife was found shot to death in the bedroom of their Moscow home after the church shootings.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/07/27/church.shooting/index.html?"
 

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire at a Unitarian church, killing two people, left behind a note suggesting that he targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal policies, including its acceptance of gays, authorities said Monday.

Police said shooting suspect Jim D. Adkisson, opened fire on a church in Knoxville, Tenn., because he was angered by its liberal views. Two people were killed in Sunday's rampage. Adkisson has been charged with first-degree murder.

A four-page letter found in Jim D. Adkisson's small SUV indicated he intentionally targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because, the police chief said, "he hated the liberal movement" and was upset with "liberals in general as well as gays."
Adkisson, a 58-year-old truck driver on the verge of losing his food stamps, had 76 rounds with him when he entered the church and pulled a shotgun from a guitar case during a children's performance of the musical "Annie."
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Monday that Adkisson may also have chosen the church because his ex-wife was a former longtime member of the congregation.
He remained jailed Monday on $1 million bond after being charged with one-count of murder. More charges are expected. Four victims were hospitalized 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," Police Chief Sterling Owen said.


Adkisson was a loner who hates "blacks, gays and anyone different from him," longtime acquaintance Carol Smallwood of Alice, Texas, told the newspaper.
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.
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 that she was "in fear for my life and what he might do."
Calls to the home of the ex-wife, Liza Alexander, 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. "He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties."
The Unitarian-Universalist church advocates for 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.
Owen said authorities believe the suspect had gone to the Unitarian church because of "some publicity in the recent past regarding its liberal stance on things."
Owen did not identify the publicity, but the Rev. Chris Buice, the church's pastor, is a frequent contributor to the Knoxville newspaper.
"In the midst of political and religious controversy, I choose to love my neighbors as myself," Buice wrote in an op-ed piece published in March. "Ultimately, I believe that tolerance, compassion and respect are the qualities we need to keep Knoxville and East Tennessee beautiful."
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 church is in an established neighborhood of older, upscale homes and several other houses of worship near the University of Tennessee.
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 from throughout the community were watching 25 children performing "Annie" when the suspect entered the church, pulled out a semiautomatic shotgun and fired three fatal blasts.
Church member Barbara Kemper said the gunman shouted "hateful words" before he opened fire, but police investigators said other witnesses didn't recall him saying anything.
A burly usher, 60-year-old Greg McKendry, was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire as other church members rushed to wrestle the gunman to the ground. Police arrived at 10:21 a.m., three minutes after getting the 911 call and arrested Adkisson.
No children were hurt, but eight people were shot, including the two who died — McKendry and Linda Kraeger, 61.
When the first shot rang out at the rear of the sanctuary, many church members thought it might be part of the play or a glitch in the public address system. Some laughed before turning around to see the shooter and his first victims covered in blood.
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."
Parkey's wife, Amy Broyles, was visiting the church to see her daughter in the play. She said Adkisson "was a man who was hurt in the world and feeling that nothing was going his way," she said. "He turned the gun on people who were mostly likely to treat him lovingly and compassionately and be the ones to help someone in that situation."
Investigators were reviewing several video recordings of the performance by parents and church members. Owen said police would not release the videos 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.
 
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