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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - 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.
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
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."
Adkisson's ex-wife once belonged to the church but hadn't
attended in years, said Ted Jones, the congregation's president.
Police investigators described Adkisson as a "stranger" to the
congregation, and police spokesman Darrell DeBusk declined to
comment on whether investigators think the ex-wife's link was a
factor in the attack.
Adkisson 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 Knoxville News Sentinel.
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.
The couple had been married for almost 10 years when Liza
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
Calls to Alexander's home were not answered Monday, and the
voice mailbox was full.
Monday night, an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people
attended a memorial service at the Second Presbyterian Church next
door to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
"We're here tonight to make sense of the senseless," the Rev.
William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist
Association of Congregations, told the gathering.
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."
Witnesses said the attack was cut short after some church
members tackled the gunman and held him until police arrived.
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
"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."
A police affidavit used to get a search warrant for Adkisson's
home said the suspect admitted to the shooting.
Adkisson "stated that he had targeted the church because of its
liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed
because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the
Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and
they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of the
major media outlets," Investigator Steve Still wrote.
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
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
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.
Associated Press Writer Beth Rucker contributed to this story.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)