Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Letter says man shot churchgoers over liberal views

AP , KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE

An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire at a Unitarian church, killing two people, left behind a note suggesting that he targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal policies, including its acceptance of gays, authorities said on Monday.

A four-page letter found in suspect Jim Adkisson’s small sport utility vehicle indicated he intentionally targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because, the police chief said, “he hated the liberal movement” and was upset with “liberals in general as well as gays.”

The Unitarian Universalist church advocates for women’s rights and gay rights and has provided sanctuary for political refugees. It also has fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, its Web site says.

Adkisson, 58, had 76 rounds with him when he entered the church and pulled a shotgun from a guitar case during a children’s performance of the musical Annie.

Adkisson’s ex-wife once belonged to the church but hadn’t attended in years, said Ted Jones, the congregation’s president.

Adkisson remained jailed on Monday on US$1 million bond after being charged with one count of murder. More charges were expected. Four victims were hospitalized in critical condition.

“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,” Police Chief Sterling Owen said.

On Monday night, an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people attended a memorial service at the Second Presbyterian Church next door to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

“We’re here tonight to make sense of the senseless,” the Reverend William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, said.

In Adkisson’s letter, which police have not released, “he indicated ... 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,” Owen said.

“He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties,” he said.

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