Tennessee gunman targeted church over its stance on gay rights

Tennessee Valley, USA - The gunman charged with killing two people during a church service in Tennessee on the weekend allegedly targeted the congregation because of their liberal views and policies – particularly on gay rights.

Jim D. Adkisson, an out of work lorry driver, described his violent plans in a four-page letter, saying he intentionally targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville because “he hated the liberal movement; and was upset with liberals in general as well as gays”.

Two people were shot dead during the attack on Sunday, including the 60-year-old church usher, Greg McKendry, who was hailed a hero for shielding other parishioners from the gunfire. Linda Kraeger, 61, also died after being admitted to hospital, and six others were injured.

Mr Adkisson, who is being held on $1 million bond, had 76 rounds with him when he entered the church and pulled a 12-gauge shotgun on the 200-strong congregation.

Witnesses said he pulled the gun, which he had bought from a pawn shop a month ago, from a guitar case and opened fire just as a performance of the musical Annie, featuring 25 children, had begun on stage.

According to witnesses, Mr Adkisson, 58, was only able to fire three shots before being tackled and held by some members of the congregation, including John Bohstedt, who was playing Daddy Warbucks in the performance of Annie.

Sterling Owen, the local police chief, said today that Mr Adkisson indicated in his letter “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. He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties”.

Mr Adkisson's ex-wife once belonged to the church but hadn't attended in 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,” Mr Owen said.

The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church prides itself on its “long and rich history of taking stands for social justice which are aligned with our values and principles”.

A memorial service was held on Monday night at the Second Presbyterian Church next door to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, in which a crowd of more than 1,000 prayed at a candlelight service.

Reverend William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, told the gathering: “We're here tonight to make sense of the senseless”.