Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting
|Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting|
|Location||Knoxville, Tennessee, United States|
|Date||July 27, 2008 (EDT)|
|Shooting, political violence, hate crime|
|Weapons||Remington Model 48 12-gauge shotgun|
|Perpetrator||Jim David Adkisson|
On July 27, 2008, a politically motivated fatal shooting took place at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. Motivated by a desire to kill liberals and Democrats, gunman Jim David Adkisson fired a shotgun at members of the congregation during a youth performance of a musical, killing two people and wounding seven others.
The Unitarian Universalist church hosted a youth performance of Annie Jr. Some 200 people were watching the performance by 25 children when Adkisson (born June 25, 1950) entered the church and opened fire on the audience. Adkisson pulled a Remington Model 48 12-gauge shotgun out of a guitar case and began firing. At first, people thought that the loud bangs of the gunshots were part of the play. One person was killed at the scene: Greg McKendry (60), a longtime church member and usher who deliberately stood in front of the gunman to protect others. Later that night, a 61-year-old woman, Linda Kraeger, died from wounds suffered during the attack. Kraeger was a member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Farragut. Others injured by the shotgun blasts include TVUUC member Tammy Sommers, and visitors John Worth, Joe Barnhart, Jack Barnhart, and Linda Chavez. Allison Lee was injured while escaping with her young children.
The shooter was stopped when church members John Bohstedt, Robert Birdwell, Arthur Bolds, and Terry Uselton and visitor Jamie Parkey restrained him.
Adkisson, a former private in the United States Army from 1974 to 1977, said that he was motivated by hatred of Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals. According to an affidavit by one of the officers who interviewed Adkisson on July 27, 2008:
During the interview 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 major media outlets. Adkisson made statements that because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them into office. Adkisson stated that he had held these beliefs for about the last ten years.
Additionally, one of Adkisson's former wives had been a member (in the 1990s) of the church where the attack occurred.
Adkisson's manifesto also cited the inability to find a job, and that his food stamps were being cut. His manifesto stated that he intended to keep shooting until police arrived and expected to be killed by police. Adkisson had a waist satchel with more ammunition, totaling 76 shells of #4 shot.
Many Unitarian Universalist congregations held special vigils and services in response to the Knoxville shooting. The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church scheduled a rededication ceremony on August 3, 2008, at which the Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens, a former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and former pastor of TVUUC spoke. The UUA president, Rev. William G. Sinkford, spoke at a vigil held at Second Presbyterian Church, in Knoxville, on July 28, 2008. A relief fund was created by the UUA and its Thomas Jefferson District to aid those affected by the shooting. On August 10, 2008, the Unitarian Universalist Association took out a full-page ad in the New York Times. The ad carried the message, "Our Doors and Our Hearts Will Remain Open". The Unitarian Universalist Association carried comprehensive coverage of the response of the UU faith community online.
The TVUUC Board voted to rename the 'greeting hall' to honor Greg McKendry, citing his outgoing and friendly personality, and to rename the church library to honor Linda Kraeger, citing her work as an author and professor. An oil painting of Greg McKendry was hung over the fireplace in the greeting hall.
At his first court appearance, Adkisson waived his rights to the preliminary hearing and requested the case go directly to the grand jury. Adkisson was represented by public defender Mark Stephens. Stephens indicated that this move was taken to get the case to trial stage as quickly as possible so resources would become available for a mental health assessment of Adkisson, indicating a possible insanity defense.
On August 21, 2008, Adkisson was arraigned on charges of murder and attempted murder and a trial date of March 16, 2009 was set. He remained in jail on a $1 million bond. It was reported that the FBI had opened a civil rights probe in regards to the case.
On February 9, 2009, Adkisson pleaded guilty to killing two people and wounding six others. "Yes, Ma'am, I am guilty as charged," he told Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole. A mental health expert had determined that Adkisson was competent to make the plea, although public defender Mark Stephens was prepared to argue at the trial that his client was insane at the time the crime was committed.
Victims and church members wept as the prosecutor described the wounds that killed Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger. The judge gave Adkisson a chance to address members of the congregation before sentencing him. "No, ma'am," he snapped. "I have nothing to say."
John Bohstedt, one of the church members who tackled Adkisson, said he didn't believe that Adkisson was insane, but that he had been manipulated by anti-liberal rhetoric. "Unbalanced, yes. Bitter, yes. Evil, yes. Insane, not in our ordinary use of the word," Bohstedt said.
Assistant District Attorney Leslie Nassios said Adkisson gave a statement to police, which showed that he planned the attack on the church because he believed that Democrats and the church's liberal politics "were responsible for his woes." Evidence showed that Adkisson bought the shotgun a month before the attack, sawed off the barrel at his home and carried the weapon into the church in a guitar case he had purchased two days before the shooting. He had written a suicide note and intended to keep firing until police officers arrived and killed him.
As of 2013 Adkisson, TOMIS ID 00450456, is incarcerated in the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) prison of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He has been incarcerated since July 27, 2008.
- "Tennessee church shooter angry at "liberals"". July 28, 2008.
- Still, Steve (2008-07-27). "Affidavit in Support of Search Warrant" (PDF). City of Knoxville, County of Knox, State of Tennessee. Judge of Knox County, Tennessee. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- Breaking Global News and Social Media from Citizen Reporters | GroundReport
- Police: Killer targeted liberal church - Crime & courts- msnbc.com
- Two Unitarian Universalists killed in church shooting, by Donald E. Skinner, 28 July 2008
- J.J. Stambaugh, Takedown of alleged shooter recounted, Knoxville News Sentinel, July 29, 2008
- "Jim D. Adkisson Charged In Tennessee Church Shooting That Killed 2". Huffington Post. July 28, 2008.
- "Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list".
- Bob Fowler, Friends: Suspect had two sides; Court records detail troubled marriage, DUI, Knoxville News Sentinel, July 29, 2008
- PDF (325 KB)
- Unitarian Universalists Schedule Vigils, Services of Remembrance to Honor Knoxville Shooting Victims
- Former UUA President Prepares to Speak at Knoxville Rededication Service
- Rev. William G. Sinkford's Remarks from Service of Healing Following Knoxville, Tennessee, Tragedy
- Knoxville Relief Fund
- New York Times
- Unitarian Universalists Respond to Knoxville Shooting Disaster
- TVUUC Get Involved
- TVUUC Solar Project
- TVUUC Governance Manual
- Church shooting suspect waives preliminary hearing
- "March trial date set for church shooter; bond remains $1 million". knoxnews.com. 2008-08-21. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
- Lawyer: Guilty plea coming in TN church shooting, Duncan Mansfield, Associated Press
- "Tennessee Felony Offender Information Lookup." Tennessee Department of Corrections. Retrieved on November 8, 2014. "ADKISSON, JIM Alias: ADKISSON, JIM D TOMIS ID 00450456 Birth Date 06/25/1950 Race W Sex M Supervision Status INCARCERATED Location NWCX Sentence Begin 07/27/2008 Parole Eligibility [Blank] Parole Hearing [Blank] Hearing Result [Blank] Sentence End [Blank]"