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July 28, 2008

Church Shooting Caused By Anti-Liberal and Anti-Gay Hatred

Yesterday morning at about 10:15, James D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell, TN walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and opened fire. At the time, the church was putting on a children's production of the musical "Annie." There were about 200 people in the audience and about 25 children involved in the production.

Church members quickly wrestled Adkisson to the floor but not before he was able to shoot seven people, killing two and sending five others to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Today, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV revealed that Adkisson left behind a four-page letter in which Adkisson described his feelings and motives. According to Chief Owen;

"Adkisson apparently acted alone and chose the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because of recent publicity about activities there that Adkisson considered liberal."

The church has a long history of not only being an open, loving and tolerant environment but also working for desegregation, women's rights and gay rights since the 1950s. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel:

It appears that (the) church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance,” the chief said. The church has a “gays welcome” sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.

According to Out & About Newspaper (which is a Tennessee GLBT publication):

Owen said a four-page letter written by Jim David Adkisson, 58, stated that his reasons for the attack were for “lack of being able to obtain a job and frustration over that and his stated hatred for the liberal movement,” Owen said. “We recovered a four-page letter in which he describes his feelings and the reasons he claims he committed these offenses.”

A reporter asked the police chief “does that mean he was talking about targeting gays in particular or just liberals in general?”

“Both,” the chief responded. “Liberals in general, as well as gays.”

Owen said his department was investigating the shooting as a hate crime and that federal authorities had been asked to assist.

The two church members who died were Linda Kraeger, 61 and Greg McKendry, 60. According to witnesses, Mr. McKendry (who was an usher and church board member) immediately and intentionally positioned himself between Adkisson and everyone else in an attempt to save as many lives as possible.

My sources for this story are: Box Turtle Bulletin, CNN News, Out & About Newspaper and Knoxville News Sentinel