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Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting
Location Knoxville, Tennessee, United States
Date July 27, 2008 (EDT)
Attack type Shooting, political violence, hate crime [1]
Weapon(s) 12-gauge shotgun
Deaths 2
Injured 7
Perpetrator Jim David Adkisson

On July 27, 2008, a politically motivated[2][3] 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.



David Adkisson

The Unitarian Universalist church hosted a youth performance of Annie Jr. Some 200 people were watching the performance by 25 children when Adkisson entered the church and opened fire on the audience.[4] Originally, people thought that the loud bang caused by the gunshots that were part of the play. Adkisson (born June 25, 1950),[5] pulled a 12-gauge shotgun out of a guitar case and began firing.[4] One person was killed at the scene. The deceased was identified as Greg McKendry (60), 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 Kreager, died from wounds suffered during the attack. Kreager was a member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, also in Knoxville.[6] Others injured by the shotgun blasts include TVUUC member Tammy Sommers, and visitors John Worth, Joe Barnhardt, Jack Barnhardt, and Linda Chavez. Allison Lee was injured while escaping with her young children.[7]

The shooter was stopped when church members John Bohstedt, Robert Birdwell, and Terry Uselton and visitor Jamie Parkey restrained him.[8]

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


Adkisson, a former private in the United States Army from 1974 to 1977, says that he was motivated by hatred of Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals.[2][9][10] According to a sworn affidavit by one of the officers who interviewed Adkisson on July 27, 2008:[3]

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.[11]

Adkisson's manifesto[12] 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.

The following books were found in Adkisson's home during a police search:[10]

In his manifesto, Adkisson also included the Democratic members of the House and Senate,[12] and the 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America [12] of Bernard Goldberg in his list of wished-for targets.


Many Unitarian Universalist congregations held special vigils and services in response to the Knoxville shooting.[13] 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.[14] The UUA president, Rev. William G. Sinkford, spoke at a vigil held at Second Presbyterian Church, in Knoxville, on July 28, 2008.[15] A relief fund has been created by the UUA and its Thomas Jefferson District to aid those affected by the shooting.[16] On August 10, the Unitarian Universalist Association took out a full-page ad in the New York Times.[17] The ad carried the message, "Our Doors and Our Hearts Will Remain Open". The Unitarian Universalist Association carries comprehensive coverage of the response of the UU faith community online.[18]

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

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 is 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.[19]

According to a 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 remains in jail on $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.[20]


  1. [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Tennessee church shooter angry at "liberals"". July 28, 2008. Archived from the original on August 8, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Still, Steve (2008-07-27). "Affidavit in Support of Search Warrant". City of Knoxville, County of Knox, State of Tennessee. Judge of Knox County, Tennessee. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Police: Killer targeted liberal church - Crime & courts-
  5. Breaking Global News and Social Media from Citizen Reporters | GroundReport
  6. Two Unitarian Universalists killed in church shooting, by Donald E. Skinner, 28 July 2008
  7. [2]
  8. J.J. Stambaugh, Takedown of alleged shooter recounted, Knoxville News Sentinel, July 29, 2008
  9. "Jim D. Adkisson Charged In Tennessee Church Shooting That Killed 2". July 28, 2008.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list".
  11. Bob Fowler, Friends: Suspect had two sides; Court records detail troubled marriage, DUI, Knoxville News Sentinel, July 29, 2008
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Template:PDF
  13. Unitarian Universalists Schedule Vigils, Services of Remembrance to Honor Knoxville Shooting Victims
  14. Former UUA President Prepares to Speak at Knoxville Rededication Service
  15. Rev. William G. Sinkford's Remarks from Service of Healing Following Knoxville, Tennessee, Tragedy
  16. Knoxville Relief Fund
  17. New York Times
  18. Unitarian Universalists Respond to Knoxville Shooting Disaster
  19. Church shooting suspect waives preliminary hearing
  20. Lawyer: Guilty plea coming in TN church shooting, Duncan Mansfield, Associated Press

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