July 28, 2008
The children’s musical at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was cut short Sunday morning when a gunman burst into the church and started firing, killing two people and injuring seven.
Congregants subdued the gunman before any children were harmed.
Police have identified the suspect as Jim D. Adkisson, 58. Adkisson reportedly shouted “hateful words,” church member Barbara Kempber told the Associated Press, before opening fire with his shotgun.
Investigators say that Adkisson is not believed to have been a member of the Knoxville church, according to CNN. They are still searching for a motive, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen told CNN.
Adkisson is charged with first-degree murder and being held on $1 million bail, according to Fox News.
Fox News also reported that longtime church member and usher Greg McKendry, 60, was killed at the scene. Kemper told the Associated Press that McKendry "stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us."
Linda Kraeger, 61, died at the University of Tennessee Medical Hospital a few hours later. Five others remain in serious or critical condition. Two others have been released, according to CNN.
According to witnesses, Adkisson burst into the church just after the children’s musical based on the show “Annie” had started. About 200 people were watching the cast of 25 children when church members heard the first shot.
"It seems so unreal," church member Mark Harmon told Fox. "You're sitting in church, you're watching a children's performance of a play and suddenly you hear a bang."
One of the church members who overpowered Adkisson was John Bohstedt, who played Daddy Warbucks in the show.
“This was a day the church was looking forward to for a long time, and it turned into a nightmare," Bohstedt told Knoxville television station WBIR.
Head Pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church in Colorado Springs offered his sympathy on Monday, KKTV.com in Colorado Springs reported. A gunman attacked New Life Church in December, killing two teenage sisters and injuring three others.
"It's still raw for us. We’re working through the grief and the sadness. I have compassion for anyone who goes through this," Boyd said.
“They need to rally around the church and soon. My advice would be don't go seven days before meeting again," said Boyd. “When a family goes through a crisis, it either destroys them or makes them stronger. New Life is stronger than ever. That's my prayer for Knoxville."