Man charged in Tenn. church shooting that killed 2

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Authorities were investigating why an apparent stranger entered a church and opened fire during a children's performance of 'Annie,' killing two, including a man witnesses called a hero for shielding others from gunfire.

Seven others were wounded Sunday at the Unitarian church and attendees tackled the gunman.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting and was held on $1 million bail, according to city spokesman Randy Kenner, who did not know if Adkisson had an attorney.

No children were harmed at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Members said they dove under pews or ran from the building when the shooting started.

The slain man was identified as Greg McKendry, 60, a longtime church member and usher. Church member Barbara 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 Center a few hours after the shooting, Kenner said.

Five of those injured were in critical or serious condition at a hospital Sunday. Two others were treated and released.

The gunman's motive was not known. But Kemper said the gunman shouted before he opened fire.

'It was hateful words. He was saying hateful things,' she said, but refused to elaborate.

The FBI was assisting in case the shooting turned out be a hate crime, Police Chief Sterling Owen said.

The church, like many other Unitarian Universalist churches, promotes progressive social work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women and gays. The Knoxville congregation has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.

Karen Massey, who lived two houses from Adkisson's home, told the Knoxville News Sentinel of a lengthy conversation she had with Adkisson a couple years ago after she told him her daughter had just graduated from Johnson Bible College. She said she ended up having to explain to him that she was a Christian.

'He almost turned angry,' she told the newspaper. 'He seemed to get angry at that. He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it.'

Massey said Adkisson talked frequently about his parents, who 'made him go to church all his life. ... He acted like he was forced to do that.'

Police took statements from witnesses and collected video cameras from church members who recorded the performance.

Authorities also searched Adkisson's duplex in the Knoxville suburb of Powell on Sunday night but refused to provide any details about what they found. A bomb squad was called in as a precaution.

'In a situation like this, we're not taking any chances,' police Lt. Doug Stiles said.

Neighbors described Adkisson as a friendly man who would often work on his motorcycle outside and go on long weekend rides.

Melissa Coker, 44, said Adkisson had lived next door since she moved in four or five years ago. She said he had been a truck driver, but she didn't believe he had steady work in the last six months or so.

'He's just a really, really nice guy,' Coker said.

The shooting started as about 200 people watched 25 children perform a show based on the musical 'Annie.'

Church member Mark Harmon said he was in the first row.

'It had barely begun when there was an incredibly loud bang,' he said.

Harmon said he thought the noise was part of the play, then he heard a second loud bang. As he dove for cover, he realized a woman behind him was bleeding. She looked like she was in shock, touching her wound, he said.

'It seems so unreal,' Harmon said. 'You're sitting in church, you're watching a children's performance of a play and suddenly you hear a bang.'

Harmon said church members just behind him in the second and third rows were shot. His wife told him she saw the gunman pull the shotgun out of a guitar case.

Witnesses reported hearing about three blasts from the .12-gauge shotgun and said they did not recognize the gunman.

Church members said one of the people who tackled the gunman was John Bohstedt, who played 'Daddy Warbucks' in the performance. He declined comment when reached by phone at his home.

Friends of McKendry said he was friendly with everyone.

'Greg McKendry was a very large gentleman, one of those people you might describe as a refrigerator with a head,' said member Schera Chadwick. 'He looked like a football player. He did obviously stand up and put himself in between the shooter and the congregation.'

McKendry and his wife had recently taken in a foster child.

The church's minister was on vacation in western North Carolina at the time of the shooting but returned Sunday afternoon.

'We've been touched by a horrible act of violence,' the Rev. Chris Buice said in a statement outside the church. 'We are in a process of healing and we ask everyone for your prayers.'


Associated Press writers Beth Rucker in Knoxville and Cara Rubinsky and Anna Varela in Atlanta contributed to this report.


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