The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of “the liberal movement,” and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said Monday morning.
The shooting in Knoxville touched lives in Blount County as several members of the Blount County Unitarian congregation were at the church when the incident occurred. They asked not to be quoted and asked for their privacy to be respected in this time of tragedy.
The suspect, Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his “hatred of the liberal movement,” Owen said. “Liberals in general, as well as gays.”
Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.
The letter, recovered from Adkisson’s black 2004 Ford Escape, which was parked in the church’s parking lot at 2931 Kingston Pike, indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week.
“He fully expected to be killed by the responding police,” the police chief said.
Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation.
The church’s Web site states that it has worked for “desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights” since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.
Officers recovered 76 shells for a 12-gauge, semiautomatic shotgun inside the church. Among those shells were three spent rounds. He had carried the shotgun inside the church in a guitar case, Owen said.
“He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties,” the chief said.
Adkisson is accused of killing two people and injuring seven others. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Greg McKendry, 60.
Also killed in the shooting was Linda Kraeger, 61, who was visiting the church from Westside Unitarian Universalist Church.
Injured were Joe Barnhart, 76, and Jack Barnhart, 69, who are brothers; Betty Barnhart, 71; Linda Chavez, 41; John Worth Jr., 68; Tammy Sommers, 38; and Allison Lee, 42. Jack and Joe Barnhart are brothers, and Jack and Betty Barnhart are married.
The shooting began at 10:18 a.m. Adkisson was arrested minutes later after being restrained by church members.
Five of those wounded remain in critical or serious condition at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Two others were treated at a local hospital and released. One of those suffered an injury when trampled as worshippers left the church.