Two dead, suspect in custody in Knox church shooting

Two dead, suspect in custody in Knox church shooting

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) --  Two people were killed and six injured Sunday after a gunman entered a Knoxville church and opened fire with a shotgun he had hidden in a guitar case.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell, is accused of the shooting during a Sunday morning service at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church at 2931 Kingston Pike, near the Sequoyah Hills community.

Adkisson is being held on a charge of first degree murder and a $1 million bond. Investigators believe he fired three rounds at the church.

His arrest warrant describes the shooting as "premeditated and intentional."

Sunday morning's service, which started at 10:00, was a performance called "Annie, Jr.," done by children in the summer musical theater workshop.

None of the children were wounded. They were taken next door to Second Presbyterian Church immediately after the shooting until the scene was secure.


Two adults killed by gunman

Greg McKendry, 60, died shortly after the shooting. He was a member of the board and an usher at the church.

Linda Kraeger, 61, passed away at UT Medical Center Sunday evening.

"We loved Greg McKendry," said Rev. Chris Buice, as his voice broke during a Sunday afternoon press conference. "Please pray for this congregation because we are grieving the loss of a wonderful man."

No other names of victims have been released.

The numbers of victims were announced by Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen, during the press conference. He said they were all in the line of fire.

Four of the six injured victims are listed in critical condition at UT Medical Center in Knoxville. One person, who was not shot but was taken to the hospital, was treated and released.


Gunman was heavily armed

Police say Adkisson, who wore a T-shirt and jeans and was armed with a shotgun he concealed in a guitar case, entered the sanctuary during a children's program at 10:18 a.m.

Authorities say he was heavily armed with ammunition.

McKendry was one of the first people in the line of fire as Adkisson began shooting, officials say.

Three people tackled Adkisson and held him until police arrived three minutes later.


Church members hold down gunman

Knox County Commission candidate Amy Broyles and her husband, Jamie Parkey, were in the church with their three daughters and another family member when the shooting happened.

Broyles was in the quiet room at the back of the sanctuary with her two-year-old when the shots rang out. Her oldest daughter, who was in the musical, was on stage speaking.

Parkey was in a pew watching. He shoved people down when the shooting started, then helped tackle Adkisson and hold him down until police arrived.

Members say they don't know of any connection Adkisson has to the church and police say there's no indication he'd been there before.

Some church members speculated that the shooting was in reaction to a new sign saying "Gays Welcome."

However, investigators wouldn't release any information about a possible motive during the press conference.

Knoxville police and the FBI are reviewing a number of videos by parents and families of the performing children.

Leigh Ann Dickert who lives near the church, said she didn't realize she was hearing gunshots at first Sunday morning. But as the commotion grew, she saw people running from the church with their children.


Community responds

The Red Cross, police chaplains and Unitarian church officials are planning trauma response for the church community.

Mayor Bill Haslam released a statement Sunday afternoon, saying, "Today, Knoxville suffered a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the church community."

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale released this statement Sunday evening:

"When we go to our places of worship, we go expecting to have a time of reflection and fellowship. Today's violence is the worst sort of desecration and should be renounced by citizens of all faiths. I join all Knox Countians in offering our prayers to the families affected by this terrible attack. This is a time for all of us to come together to lend our complete support to this church family."

Rev. Buice was on vacation at the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville, N.C., when the shooting happened. He returned to Knoxville immediately after he got word of the shooting.

The church has posted this message about the shooting on its Web site:

"Dear friends, Our congregation is recovering from the violent incident that occurred during this morning's worship service. Please keep us in your prayers. We will post more information here shortly. Thanks for your continued support."

According to information posted on the Web site, the church will hold debriefing sessions for adults and children on Monday. The sessions will be held from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Knoxville Second Presbyterian Church, 2829 Kingston Pike (next door to the Unitarian Universalist Church). Crisis intervention professionals will be present at the sessions.

At 7:30 p.m. the church will hold a candlelight gathering.

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