Former NFL player kills 5, self, in South Carolina shooting

Southeast

ROCK HILL, S.C. (NewsNation Now) — Five people including a prominent doctor, his wife and two grandchildren were shot and killed inside their South Carolina home Wednesday by a gunman identified by law enforcement as former NFL pro Phillip Adams, who later killed himself.

Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, were pronounced dead at the scene along with grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, according to the York County coroner’s office.

A worker who was at the home at the time, James Lewis, 38, was found shot to death outside, while another worker, Robert Shook, was wounded, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

Shook remains in critical condition after multiple surgeries.

Tolson confirmed earlier reports identifying Adams as the shooter during a press conference Thursday, saying investigators discovered evidence at the scene that “definitively” linked him to the killing and it appeared he forced entry into the home.

The sheriff said Adams lived with his parents about a quarter mile away from the Lesslie residence. A source speaking with the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said Adams had been treated by the doctor, but Tolson said he could not confirm that.

Image: Photo: Robert D Lesslie, MD, Facebook

During the press conference, Tolson played two 911 calls received around 4:44 p.m. Wednesday. One caller said he heard what sounded like an “automatic,” as he was outside mowing the grass.

“I saw the guy running around and I heard the popping, but I didn’t realize it was shooting until I saw this guy laying on the ground,” the caller said.

Deputies arrived on the scene about eight minutes after the initial calls, Tolson said, and assisted the two air conditioning techs who were found outside near their van. The other 911 call played by Tolson was made by someone at their employer, Gaston Sheet Metal.

“I have two A/C technicians on that location, I just had one call me screaming that he’d been shot and that the other technician had been shot and is not responsive,” the caller said.

Lewis’ parents told WJZY that Lewis was a single father of three. In a statement, the company said both men are, “long-standing, beloved members of our family at GSM.”

After tending to the technicians, Tolson said deputies formed a team before venturing into the home.

“Once we cleared the home, we found Dr. Robert Lesslie, his wife Barbara, and their two grandchildren in a room in the back of the house, all deceased with gunshot wounds,” Tolson said.

Tolson said the grandchildren lived in a separate house with their parents on the same property.

James Lewis (photo provided by family

After the shooting Wednesday, York County Sheriff’s Office’s spokesperson Trent Faris said deputies spent hours searching for Adams before finding him in his parents’ home nearby.

Allison Hope, who lives across the road, said police allowed her to return home around 9 p.m. Wednesday, just before she saw a vehicle pull into the Adams’ driveway.

She said law enforcement quickly surrounded the house and then spent hours negotiating with Adams, using a loudspeaker and sending in a robot to scan the house.

She said authorities repeatedly asked Adams to come out, and promised to get his disabled mother out safely.

Tolson said both parents left the home before law enforcement entered after 2:30 a.m. Thursday, after which they found Adams dead with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The motive in the shooting remains unclear, Tolson said.

“There’s nothing out here that makes sense to any of us and that’s why we’re working so hard to try to get more information,” Tolson said.

Later Thursday, a few sheriff’s deputies were posted near the Lesslie home, which is far beyond an arched stone gate, up a long paved driveway and not visible from the road.

The Adams home, roughly a mile down the road, is a modest, one-story brick house with several cars in the driveway.

Faris said Lesslie was a prominent figure in Rock Hill.

“I’ve lived in Rock Hill my entire life and Dr. Lesslie was my doctor growing up,” Faris said. “Dr. Lesslie has been one of those people that everybody knows. He started Riverview Medical Center in Rock Hill and it’s been a staple in Rock Hill for years.”

A safety and special teams player from South Carolina State, the 33-year-old Adams played in 78 NFL games over six seasons for six teams, starting with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 and finishing his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

Whether Adams suffered long-lasting injuries from his concussions as a player wasn’t immediately clear. Adams would not have been eligible for testing as part of a broad settlement between the league and its former players over such injuries, because he hadn’t retired by 2014.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 08: Phillip Adams #28 of the Oakland Raiders looks into the crowd during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 8, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeat the Raiders 37-27. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Adams’ father told a Charlotte television station that he blamed football for problems that may have led his son to commit Wednesday’s violence.

“I can say he’s a good kid, he was a good kid, and I think the football messed him up,” Alonzo Adams told WCNC-TV. “He didn’t talk much and he didn’t bother nobody.”

Lesslie worked for decades as an emergency room doctor in Rock Hill, eventually serving as the director at Rock Hill General Hospital for 15 years. He was also an author of a regular medical column and several books, including “Angels in the ER,” which documented “inspiring true stories” from his work.

“I know without a doubt that life is fragile,” Lesslie wrote, according to an excerpt. “I have come to understand that humility may be the greatest virtue. And I am convinced we need to take the time to say the things we deeply feel to the people we deeply care about.”

In a statement read by Tolson, Lesslie’s family expressed grief over their loss while saying their faith guides them to show compassion for the families of Adams and the other victims.

“We are truly in the midst of the unimaginable, the losses we have suffered cannot be uttered at this time… but we do not grieve as those without hope,” the statement said. “Our hearts are bent towards forgiveness and peace, towards love and connectedness, towards celebration and unity.”

Rock Hill is a city in northernmost South Carolina about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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