Several people shot at gay affirming church in Knoxville


UPDATE 7/28 10:21 a.m. : The Associated Press has reported that Knoxville’s police chief says the man accused of a shooting that killed two people at a Tennessee church targeted the congregation because of its liberal social stance. Chief Sterling Owen IV said Monday that police found a letter in Jim D. Adkisson’s car. Owen said Adkisson was apparently frustrated over being out of work and had a "stated hatred of the liberal movement." The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Chief Owen said the letter stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."

UPDATE 7/28 7:50 a.m.:  Seven people have been injured. Two have died. Two were treated and released and five remain in critical or serious condition at UT Medical Center. Police found a multi-page, handwritten letter in the vehicle of the suspect. A motive has not yet been released.

UPDATE 7/27 8:30 p.m.: A second victim has died from this morning’s shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Linda Kraeger, 61, died this evening at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Greg McKendry, 60, was killed when he confronted the gunman as he entered the church.  Knoxville Police have charged Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell, with first-degree in the death of McKendry.  Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said Adkission shot eight people with a 12-gauge shotgun. Of those shot, all were adults- four women and three men. The FBI is assisting in the investigation, according to police, just in case the event turns out to be a hate crime.

Original Story: Church services were disrupted today at a gay-affirming church in Knoxville when a lone gunman opened fire killing at least one person, and wounding several more.

Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 2931 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, was the site of the vicious attack. It occurred while a group of children were singing for the congregation when the gunman opened fire. The children were starring in a production of "Annie" that was taking place as part of the normal Sunday service at the time of the shooting. 

Knoxville Police have not yet released a motive for the shooting. The church is the site of some gay affirming activities.

A member of the congregation wrote in a national blog that the church just recently put up a sign welcoming gays. One of the goals of the church’s long range plan is to "Increase congregational participation in human rights programs for
gay/lesbian/transgendered persons."

“Elrod,” who posted a comment on the blog, “The Moderate Voice” says he is a member of the church. He said he was not present today but did add “all we know right now is that the suspect was not connected to the church in any way. I have no idea if the man had some sort of political or cultural agenda (TVUUC had just put up a sign welcoming gays to the congregation), or if it’s just some lunatic acting for no reason at all.” 

It is home to Knoxville’s Spectrum Café, which is a social gathering place for Knoxville area high school youth who “support the principles of diversity, tolerance, and the worth and dignity of every human being.”  Teens who come to Spectrum respect each others’ ideas, religious views, race, sexual orientations, abilities, and ethnic backgrounds. The group welcomes “self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or who are questioning their sexual or gender identity.” 

The Knoxville Monday Gay Men’s Group meets at the church each Monday from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

David Massey is one of the coordinators of Spectrum Café, also known as “Spectrum Diversi-Tea and Coffee House,” which will begin its eighth year this spring. “We advertise it as a safe harbor for teens who identify as LBGTQ and their straight friends and allies, plus any other youth who are being harassed for religious beliefs, appearance, or abilities,” Massey said in an interview with UU World Magazine. 

At least seven people were shot – Becky Thompson with UT Medical Center confirmed to NBC News that seven people were transported from the church to UTMC for medical treatment.

KPD says the call came in at 10:18 am. The first officer arrived at 10:21 am. The suspect was taken into custody at 10:22 am. Police believe he is the lone suspect.

A witness told WBRI news that the gunman began shooting at random across rows of parishioners before he was tackled by members of the congregation. A member of the church, Steve Drevik told the press outside the church that the police had the suspect in custody.

Witnesses also said that the man, who look to be in his 40’s with long blonde hair, was not a member of the church.

WVLT TV said the man fired around 13 shots around 10:15 am (1415 GMT) before being overpowered.