By DUNCAN MANSFIELD
Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A gunman opened fire at a church youth
performance Sunday and killed two people, including a man who
witnesses called a hero for shielding others from a shotgun blast.
Seven adults were also injured but no children were harmed at
the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Church members
said they dove under pews or ran from the building when the
The gunman was tackled by congregants and eventually taken into
Jim D. Adkisson, 58, was charged with first-degree murder and
was being held on $1 million bail, according to city spokesman
Randy Kenner, who did not know if the suspect had retained an
attorney. Authorities were searching Adkisson's home in the
Knoxville bedroom community of Powell, Kenner said.
The man slain 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 Kreager, 61, died at the University of Tennessee Medical
Center a few hours after the shooting, Knoxville city spokesman
Randall Kenner said.
Five people remained hospitalized, all in critical or serious
condition. Two others were treated and released.
The gunman's motive is not yet known. The church, like many
other Unitarian Universalist churches, promotes progressive social
work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women
and gays. The Knoxville congregation has provided sanctuary for
political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.
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 the case in case it turns out be a hate
crime, Police Chief Sterling Owen said. Police were taking
statements from witnesses and collecting video cameras from church
members who taped the performance.
There were about 200 people watching a performance by 25
children based on the musical "Annie" when the shooting took
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 that she saw the gunman
pull the shotgun out of a guitar case.
Witnesses reported hearing about three blasts from the .12-gauge
shotgun, which spreads pellets out when the shot leaves the barrel.
Witnesses said they did not recognize the gunman.
Church members said the gunman was tackled by John Bohstedt, who
played "Daddy Warbucks" in the performance. He declined comment
when reached by phone at his home.
Friends of McKendry said he was friendly with everyone.
"Greg McKendry was a very large gentlemen, one of those people
you might describe as a refrigerator with a head," said member
Schera Chadwick, whose husband, Ted Lollis, arrived at the church
just after the shooting. "He looked like a football player. He did
obviously stand up and put himself in between the shooter and the
McKendry and his wife had recently taken in a foster child.
The church's minister was on vacation in western North Carolina
at the time of the shooting but returned Sunday afternoon.
"We've been touched by a horrible act of violence. We are in a
process of healing and we ask everyone for your prayers," the Rev.
Chris Buice said in a statement outside the church. "I will tell
you we love Greg McKendry. We are grieving the loss of a wonderful
Associated Press writers Beth Rucker in Knoxville and Cara
Rubinsky and Anna Varela in Atlanta contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)