- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) | An unemployed man accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing two people at a Unitarian Universalist church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its support of liberal social policies, police said Monday.

Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said a signed, four-page letter written by Jim D. Adkisson, 58, was found in his small sport utility vehiclein the church parking lot. The gunfire interrupted a children’s performance based on the musical “Annie” on Sunday, killing two and wounding seven.

“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 of the liberal movement,” Chief Owen said at a news conference.

No children were hurt, but five people remained in serious or critical condition Monday. A burly usher who died was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Witnesses said some of the church members wrestled the suspect to the ground after he pulled a shotgun from a guitar case and fired three times.

Mr. Adkisson, who is charged with one count of first-degree murder, remained jailed Monday under “close observation” on $1 million bail, authorities said. More charges are expected.

Court records from neighboring Anderson County indicate Mr. Adkisson threatened his spouse with violence several years ago. In March 2000 his then-wife, Liza Alexander, obtained an order of protection against him after telling a judge that Mr. Adkisson had threatened “to blow my brains out and then blow his own brains out.”

The woman’s written request for protection, reviewed by the Associated Press, said she was “in fear for my life and what he might do.”

The UnitarianUniversalist church promotes progressive social work, including advocacy of women and gay rights. The Knoxville congregation also has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.

Chief Owen said the letter indicated Mr. Adkisson, who neighbors said had worked previously as a truck driver, did not expect to leave the church alive. He added the man reported having no family or next of kin.

“He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties,” Chief Owen said. “He had 76 rounds with him.”

Police said Mr. Adkisson carried a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun into the church in a guitar case, but it appeared no specific person was targeted. A search of his house also turned up a .38-caliber handgun, Chief Owen added.

The chief 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.”

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