Church shooting kills 2; suspect charged

Jim Adkisson, 58, was charged with first-degree murder after Sunday's shooting at the Knoxville church.
Jim Adkisson, 58, was charged with first-degree murder after Sunday's shooting at the Knoxville church.
Posted by Nick Dutton -

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) - A shotgun-wielding man opened fire at a Unitarian church during a children's play Sunday morning, killing two adults and wounding seven others before being overpowered by congregants, officials said.

One of the victims, Linda Kraeger, 61, died at a hospital several hours after the shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Knoxville municipal spokesman Randall Kenner said.

Also killed was Greg McKendry, a 60-year-old usher and board member at the church, police said earlier in the day.

A suspect, Jim Adkisson, 58, of Powell, Tennessee, was charged with one count of first-degree murder, Kenner said Sunday evening.

Adkisson is not believed to have been a member of the Knoxville church, and investigators have not determined a motive for the shooting, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen told reporters.

"[The motive] is one thing we're obviously aggressively pursuing," Owen said.

Five others were hospitalized in either critical or serious condition, police said.

Two other people hurt in the attack were treated and released, Owen said.

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."

Owen told reporters he couldn't comment on whether McKendry confronted the gunman, but he said McKendry apparently "was the first person [the gunman] encountered" in the sanctuary.

Members of the church said a man entered the building at about 10:15 a.m. and began shooting during a children's production of the musical "Annie." About 200 people in the church were watching the production, which was being put on by 25 children, the AP reported.

No child was shot, and a few church members subdued the man and held him until officers arrived, police said. Church members said one of the tacklers was John Bohstedt, a man who had a part in the musical, the AP reported.

"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.

Ken Kitts said he arrived late and saw a couple and a child running out of the church at "super-fast speed."

"Then everybody else started pouring out of the church, lots of them in costume from this show they were putting on," he said.

Inside, he said, was a scene of "absolute chaos," including wounded people and the gunman, who was pinned to the floor by church members.

"He was face-down in middle of a bunch of shotgun shells rolling around on the floor," Kitts said.

Owen said investigators are looking into whether Adkisson has a criminal history. Bail was set at $1 million late Sunday.

"We don't know this particular individual. We may never know why," said Steve Drevik, a church member who arrived after the shooting. "All of this will come out in the next couple of days."

Rick Lambert, the FBI agent in charge of the bureau's Knoxville office, said federal agents are assisting Knoxville police with witness interviews and could help analyze evidence from the crime scene. He said the bureau is examining whether the attack was a hate crime.

"Anytime there is a shooting in a church, there is the possibility it could be a hate crime," he said.

The church, on its Web site, describes itself as a community that has worked for social change -- including desegregation, women's rights and gay rights -- since the 1950s.

Police said people were recording videos of the children's performance when the shooting happened, and investigators were reviewing the videos. Information on what, if anything, the videos show of the shooting wasn't immediately available.

The church's minister, Chris Buice, said he was on vacation when the shooting happened but rushed back when he heard what occurred. Sunday afternoon -- after McKendry's death but before Kraeger's -- he spoke briefly to reporters.

"Please pray for this congregation, because we are grieving the loss of a wonderful man," Buice said as he choked back tears.

Sunday's attack was the fourth time in 15 months that an American church became a scene of a fatal shooting.

In December 2007, a 24-year-old former missionary candidate killed two people at a suburban Denver, Colorado, missionary training center and two more at a Colorado Springs megachurch the following day. The gunman, Matthew Murray, killed himself after being shot by a security guard.

The previous August, police said, 52-year-old Eiken Saimon shot and killed three people and wounded five others at a Congregational church in Neosho, Missouri. The attack left three people dead and five wounded.

And that May, in Moscow, Idaho, 36-year-old Jason Hamilton fatally shot a police officer and a sexton at First Presbyterian Church, then killed himself before police stormed the building. Hamilton's wife was found shot to death in the bedroom of their Moscow home after the church shootings.

The previous August, police said, 52-year-old Eiken Saimon shot and killed three people and wounded five others at a Congregational church in Neosho, Missouri. The attack left three people dead and five wounded.

And that May, in Moscow, Idaho, 36-year-old Jason Hamilton fatally shot a police officer and a sexton at First Presbyterian Church, then killed himself before police stormed the building. Hamilton's wife was found shot to death in the bedroom of their Moscow home after the church shootings.

CNN contributed contributed this report.