An unemployed man accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing two people at a Unitarian church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its support of liberal social policies, police said Monday.
Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said a signed, four-page letter written by Jim Adkisson, 58, was found in his small SUV in the church parking lot. Authorities said he was an apparent stranger to the Tennessee church where gunfire punctuated a children's performance based on the musical “Annie.” Two people were killed and seven wounded Sunday.
“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 of the liberal movement,” Owen said at a news conference.
No children were hurt, but five people remained in serious or critical condition Monday. An usher who died is being hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Witnesses said some of the church members wrestled the gunman to the ground after he pulled a shotgun from a guitar case and fired three times.
Adkisson, who is charged with one count of first-degree murder, remained jailed Monday under “close observation” on $1 million bail, authorities said. More charges were expected.
The Unitarian Universalist church promotes progressive social work, including advocacy of women and gay rights. The Knoxville congregation also has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.
Owen said the letter indicated Adkisson, who neighbors said had previously worked as a truck driver, did not expect to leave the church alive. He added the man reported having no family or next-of-kin.
“He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties,” Owen said. “He had 76 rounds with him.”