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Jim David ADKISSON

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Shooting rampage - Motivated by a desire to kill liberals and Democrats
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: July 27, 2008
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: June 25, 1950
Victim profile: Greg McKendry, 60, and Linda Kraeger, 61
Method of murder: Shooting (Remington Model 48 12-gauge shotgun)
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 9, 2009
 
 
 
 
 
 

photo gallery

 
 
 
 
 
 

Affidavit in support of search warrant (2.7 Mb)

 
 
 
 
 
 

Jim Adkisson manifesto (0.3 Mb)

 
 
 
 
 
 

Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting

On July 27, 2008, a politically motivated fatal shooting took place at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. Motivated by a desire to kill liberals and Democrats, gunman Jim David Adkisson fired a shotgun at members of the congregation during a youth performance of a musical, killing two people and wounding seven others.

Shooting

The Unitarian Universalist church hosted a youth performance of Annie Jr. Some 200 people were watching the performance by 25 children when Adkisson (born June 25, 1950) entered the church and opened fire on the audience. Adkisson pulled a Remington Model 48 12-gauge shotgun out of a guitar case and began firing.

At first, people thought that the loud bangs of the gunshots were part of the play. One person was killed at the scene: Greg McKendry, a longtime church member and usher who deliberately stood in front of the gunman to protect others. Later that night, a 61-year-old woman, Linda Kraeger, died from wounds suffered during the attack. Kraeger was a member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Farragut.

Others injured by the shotgun blasts include TVUUC member Tammy Sommers, and visitors John Worth, Joe Barnhart, Jack Barnhart, and Linda Chavez. Allison Lee was injured while escaping with her young children.

The shooter was stopped when church members John Bohstedt, Robert Birdwell, Arthur Bolds, and Terry Uselton and visitor Jamie Parkey restrained him.

The Knoxville Police Department (KPD) responded within three minutes of the 911 call, and ambulance services arrived only minutes later.

Motivations

Adkisson, a former private in the United States Army from 1974 to 1977, said that he was motivated by hatred of Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals. According to a sworn affidavit by one of the officers who interviewed Adkisson on July 27, 2008.

During the interview Adkisson stated that he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets. Adkisson made statements that because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them into office. Adkisson stated that he had held these beliefs for about the last ten years.

Additionally, one of Adkisson's former wives had been a member (in the 1990s) of the church where the attack occurred.

Adkisson's manifesto also cited the inability to find a job, and that his food stamps were being cut. His manifesto stated that he intended to keep shooting until police arrived and expected to be killed by police. Adkisson had a waist satchel with more ammunition, totaling 76 shells of #4 shot.

In his manifesto, Adkisson also included the Democratic members of the House and Senate, and the 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America of Bernard Goldberg in his list of wished-for targets.

Response

Many Unitarian Universalist congregations held special vigils and services in response to the Knoxville shooting. The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church scheduled a rededication ceremony on August 3, 2008, at which the Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens, a former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and former pastor of TVUUC spoke. The UUA president, Rev. William G. Sinkford, spoke at a vigil held at Second Presbyterian Church, in Knoxville, on July 28, 2008.

A relief fund was created by the UUA and its Thomas Jefferson District to aid those affected by the shooting. On August 10,2008, the Unitarian Universalist Association took out a full-page ad in the New York Times. The ad carried the message, "Our Doors and Our Hearts Will Remain Open". The Unitarian Universalist Association carried comprehensive coverage of the response of the UU faith community online.

The TVUUC Board voted to rename the 'greeting hall' to honor Greg McKendry, citing his outgoing and friendly personality, and to rename the church library to honor Linda Kraeger, citing her work as an author and professor. An oil painting of Greg McKendry was hung over the fireplace in the greeting hall.

Legal proceedings

At his first court appearance, Adkisson waived his rights to the preliminary hearing and requested the case go directly to the grand jury. Adkisson was represented by public defender Mark Stephens. Stephens indicated that this move was taken to get the case to trial stage as quickly as possible so resources would become available for a mental health assessment of Adkisson, indicating a possible insanity defense.

According to a knoxnews.com article of August 21, 2008, Adkisson was arraigned that day on charges of murder and attempted murder and a trial date of March 16, 2009 was set. He remained in jail on a $1 million bond. Also according to that article, "authorities haven't said whether Adkisson might face federal charges in the shooting, but the FBI has opened a civil-rights probe."

On February 4, 2009 lawyers representing Adkisson announced that he would plead guilty to two counts of murder, accepting a life sentence without possibility of parole.

On February 9, 2009, Adkisson pleaded guilty to killing two people and wounding six others. "Yes, Ma'am, I am guilty as charged," he told Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole. A mental health expert had determined that Adkisson was competent to make the plea, although public defender Mark Stephens was prepared to argue at the trial that his client was insane at the time the crime was committed.

Victims and church members wept as the prosecutor described the wounds that killed Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger. The judge gave Adkisson a chance to address members of the congregation before sentencing him. "No, ma'am," he snapped. "I have nothing to say."

John Bohstedt, one of the church members who tackled Adkisson, said he didn't believe that Adkisson was insane, but that he had been manipulated by anti-liberal rhetoric. "Unbalanced, yes. Bitter, yes. Evil, yes. Insane, not in our ordinary use of the word," Bohstedt said.

Assistant District Attorney Leslie Nassios said Adkisson gave a statement to police, which showed that he planned the attack on the church because he believed that Democrats and the church's liberal politics "were responsible for his woes." Evidence showed that Adkisson bought the shotgun a month before the attack, sawed off the barrel at his home and carried the weapon into the church in a guitar case he had purchased two days before the shooting. He had written a suicide note and intended to keep firing until police officers arrived and killed him.

As of 2013 Adkisson, TOMIS ID 00450456, is incarcerated in the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) prison of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He has been incarcerated since July 27, 2008.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Tenn. church shooter hoped attack would spur more

By Duncan Mansfield - The Associated Press

March 12, 2009

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. An unemployed truck driver seething over liberalism told police he opened fire in a church last year because it harbored gays and multiracial families and he hoped others would follow his example.

Prosecutors opened their case file Thursday on Jim David Adkisson, 58, who pleaded guilty a month ago to killing two people and wounding six others at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. The file includes interviews with investigators and a suicide note Adkisson left in his car.

Now serving a life sentence, Adkisson told police during an hour-long interrogation three hours after the July 27 shooting that he was unemployed, depressed and ready to take his anger out on what he called "an ultra-liberal" church that "never met a pervert they just didn't embrace."

"They just glory (in) these weirdos and sickos and homos," he said in an interview recorded by investigators.

He also railed against the Unitarian Church: "That ain't a church, that's a damned cult," Adkisson said.

The Knoxville church said in a statement Thursday that the congregation was still healing and that many hoped Adkisson would also "be healed of whatever motivated his actions."

Adkisson walked into the church, pulled a sawed-off shotgun from a guitar case and fired into a congregation of about 230 people watching a children's musical performance.

He expected police would kill him. Instead, church members wrestled him to the ground.

Recorded calls to Knox County's 911 Center proved the panic and rapid response by church members. Just four minutes after the first 911, a police officer reports Adkisson is in custody.

Shortly after a woman caller told dispatchers of the attack, a man calling from the church reported that worshipers had disarmed the attacker and weren't about to let him go.

"They may beat him to death, but they've got him," the caller said.

Adkisson left a four-page suicide note in his SUV in the church parking lot. In it, he described the attack as "a hate crime," "a political protest" and "a symbolic killing."

He railed against extending constitutional rights to terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, about the news media being "the propaganda wing of the Democrat Party," and how he would like to kill every major Democrat in Congress. But he said they were inaccessible and decided to go after "the foot soldiers, the (expletive) liberals that vote in these traitorous people."

Adkisson concluded, "I'd like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done. If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. Do something for your country before you go. Go kill liberals."

Adkisson told police he had never attended the church. But his fifth wife, Liza Alexander, who divorced him in 2000, had attended the church and convinced him to work as a counselor at Unitarian youth camps.

"I was in a marriage and I loved this woman, but she was just ... I'd never been around somebody that liberal in my life," he said.

Before she divorced him, Alexander got a protection order, claiming Adkisson threatened "to blow my brains out and then blow his own brains out," according to file documents.

Catherine Murray, who was friends with the couple, told police Adkisson had drug and alcohol problems and "basically was afraid of anybody or anything that was not like him."

Adkisson had worked a series of industrial jobs, including as a pipe worker at a Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear plant and on the Saturn Corp. auto assembly line, until 2006.

He complained in his suicide note and later in his interview with police that he was always being laid off and his prospects were growing slim as he got older. Again, he blamed liberals and Democrats.

He entered the church with 50 shotgun cartridges. He told police he planned to kill every adult in the sanctuary, but would spare the children because they also were "victims."

"I regret that I have but one life to give for my country," said Adkisson, an Air Force veteran. "I hope I start a movement."

Adkisson told interrogators he was "crazy" and depressed but had never been diagnosed. His lawyer has said Adkisson rebuffed attempts to pursue an insanity defense.

"I just did what I did today," Adkisson said. "See if you'd met me in a bar ... on a street, you'd say, 'Well, that's a nice fellow.' And I am."

 
 

Tenn. church shooter pleads guilty, gets life

By Duncan Mansfield, The Associated Press

February 9, 2009

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. An out-of-work truck driver smiled Monday as he pleaded guilty to killing two people and wounding six others at a Tennessee church last summer because he considered the liberal church "a den of un-American vipers."

"Yes, ma'am, I am guilty as charged," Jim D. Adkisson, 58, told Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole on two counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.

Adkisson was scheduled to stand trial next month in the July 2008 rampage at the Tennessee Valley United Unitarian Church in Knoxville, but decided to enter a plea deal that virtually guarantees he will never leave prison alive.

Public defender Mark Stephens said a mental health expert determined Adkisson was competent to make the plea, though Stephens was prepared to argue at trial that his client was insane at the time of the crime. Adkisson believed entering the plea was "the honorable thing to do," Stephens said.

Assistant District Attorney Leslie Nassios said Adkisson gave a statement to police and left a suicide note. They showed he planned the attack on the church, where his ex-wife was once a member, because he hated the church's liberal politics and Democrats, whom he believed "were responsible for his woes."

The Unitarian Universalist church promotes progressive social work, including advocacy of women and gay rights.

"This was a hate crime," Adkisson wrote in the four-page suicide letter obtained by The Knoxville News Sentinel. "This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the House and Senate ... (and) everyone in the mainstream media. But these people were inaccessible to me.

"I couldn't get to the generals and high-ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chicken (expletive) liberals that vote in these traitorous people."

The Tennessee Valley United Unitarian Church, he wrote, was "a den of un-American vipers."

The prosecutor's office refused to release the letter to The Associated Press, saying it was not part of court records and could still be used if Adkisson rescinds his plea in the next 30 days. Stephens did not return several calls to the AP.

Nassios said Adkisson bought the shotgun a month before the attack, sawed off the barrel at his home and carried the weapon into the church in a guitar case that he bought two days before the shooting. He had more than 70 shotgun shells with him and planned to keep firing until officers killed him, police have said. But church members intervened and wrestled him to the ground.

Victims and church members wept as the prosecutor described the wounds that killed longtime church member Greg McKendry, 60, who blocked the shots from hitting others, and retired English professor, Linda Kraeger, who had come to see the play. The church honored them during a 60th anniversary celebration on Sunday.

Two survivors each lost vision in one eye, one was left in a coma for several days after the shooting and another has endured several follow-up surgeries since.

I think I am going to move on," said victim Tammy Sommers, 38, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and only recently returned to work. "But he is in prison ... and I want him to stay in prison."

Several church members believed Adkisson showed no remorse.

"When he came into the courtroom, he had a look of sheer evil on his face. He really did. Evil as well as arrogance," said Vicki Masters, who directed the children's play.

The judge gave Adkisson a chance to talk to the congregation before sentencing him.

"No, ma'am," he snapped. "I have nothing to say."

"He is in the right place, and I am very satisfied," said Brian Griffin, who directs the Sunday school program. "This is justice. He is gone."

John Bohstedt, one of the church members who tackled Adkisson, said he didn't believe Adkisson was insane, but was manipulated by rhetoric aimed at liberals.

"Unbalanced, yes. Bitter, yes. Evil, yes. Insane, not in our ordinary use of the word," Bohstedt said.

"There are a lot of people who hate liberals, and if we stir that around in the pot and on the airwaves, eventually there will be people (like Adkisson) ... who get infected by the violent rhetoric and put it into violent action," he said.

Bohstedt said he was worried about future violence: "Do you think there are other Jim Adkissons out there listening to hate speech? I do."

 
 

Jim D. Adkisson Charged In Tennessee Church Shooting That Killed 2

By Duncan Mansfield - HuffingtonPost.com

July 28, 2008

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. 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 Monday.

A four-page letter found in Jim D. Adkisson's small SUV 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."

Adkisson, a 58-year-old truck driver on the verge of losing his food stamps, 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. Police investigators described Adkisson as a "stranger" to the congregation, and police spokesman Darrell DeBusk declined to comment on whether investigators think the ex-wife's link was a factor in the attack.

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

The attack Sunday morning lasted only minutes. But the anger behind it may have been building for months, if not 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," Police Chief Sterling Owen said.

Adkisson was a loner who hates "blacks, gays and anyone different from him," longtime acquaintance Carol Smallwood of Alice, Texas, told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Authorities said Adkisson's criminal record consisted of only two drunken driving citations. But court records reviewed by The Associated Press show that his former wife obtained an order of protection in March 2000 while the two were still married and living in the Knoxville suburb of Powell.

The couple had been married for almost 10 years when Liza Alexander wrote in requesting the order that Adkisson threatened "to blow my brains out and then blow his own brains out." She told a judge that she was "in fear for my life and what he might do."

Calls to Alexander's home were not answered Monday, and the voice mailbox was full.

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 Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, told the gathering.

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."

Witnesses said the attack was cut short after some church members tackled the gunman and held him until police arrived.

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, according to its Web site.

Owen said authorities believe the suspect had gone to the Unitarian church because of "some publicity in the recent past regarding its liberal stance on things."

Owen did not identify the publicity, but the Rev. Chris Buice, the church's pastor, is a frequent contributor to the Knoxville newspaper.

"In the midst of political and religious controversy, I choose to love my neighbors as myself," Buice wrote in an op-ed piece published in March. "Ultimately, I believe that tolerance, compassion and respect are the qualities we need to keep Knoxville and East Tennessee beautiful."

A police affidavit used to get a search warrant for Adkisson's home said the suspect admitted to the shooting.

Adkisson "stated that he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of the major media outlets," Investigator Steve Still wrote.

Adkisson told authorities he had no next of kin or family. He lived about a 20-minute drive from the Unitarian church _ one of three in the Knoxville area. The church is in an established neighborhood of older, upscale homes and several other houses of worship near the University of Tennessee.

The police chief said the suspect bought the shotgun at a pawn shop about a month ago, and he wrote the letter in the last week or so. A .38-caliber handgun was found in his home.

About 200 people from throughout the community were watching 25 children performing "Annie" when the suspect entered the church, pulled out a semiautomatic shotgun and fired three fatal blasts.

Church member Barbara Kemper said the gunman shouted "hateful words" before he opened fire, but police investigators said other witnesses didn't recall him saying anything.

A burly usher, 60-year-old Greg McKendry, was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire as other church members rushed to wrestle the gunman to the ground. Police arrived at 10:21 a.m., three minutes after getting the 911 call and arrested Adkisson.

No children were hurt, but eight people were shot, including the two who died _ McKendry and Linda Kraeger, 61.

When the first shot rang out at the rear of the sanctuary, many church members thought it might be part of the play or a glitch in the public address system. Some laughed before turning around to see the shooter and his first victims covered in blood.

Jamie Parkey crawled under the pews with his daughter and mother when the second and third shots were fired. He saw several men rush the suspect.

"I jumped up to join them," he told AP Television News. "When I got there, they were already wrestling with him. The gun was in the air. Somebody grabbed the gun and we just kind of dog-piled him to the floor. I knew a police suppression hold, and I sat on him until police came."

Parkey's wife, Amy Broyles, was visiting the church to see her daughter in the play. She said Adkisson "was a man who was hurt in the world and feeling that nothing was going his way," she said. "He turned the gun on people who were mostly likely to treat him lovingly and compassionately and be the ones to help someone in that situation."

Investigators were reviewing several video recordings of the performance by parents and church members. Owen said police would not release the videos or Adkisson's letter until they have been analyzed for evidence.

Adkisson, who faces his next court hearing Aug. 5, was on active duty with the Army beginning in 1974. Army records show he was a helicopter repairman, rising from a private to specialist and then returning to private before being discharged in late 1977.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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