July 28, 2008

Two Die in Tenn. Church Shooting

By Alan Gomez and Donna Leinwand

Police were trying Sunday to determine why a man blasted a shotgun at congregants of a Tennessee church as children were putting on a musical show.

Parishioners said the man pulled a 12-gauge shotgun from a guitar case and started shooting as children performed Annie Jr. in the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen said.

Two people were killed and eight others injured.

Jim Adkisson, 58, was charged with first-degree murder and is being held in lieu of $1 million bond in the Knox County Detention Center, Knoxville city spokesman Randall Kenner said.

Church members had already tackled the shooter by the time police arrived at the church three minutes after the first 911 call, Owen said.

"We're thankful for them for without (them), this situation, as horrible as it is, could've been even worse," Mayor Bill Haslam said.

Owen said they did not know a motive in the shooting. He said Adkisson of nearby Powell was not a member of the church.

Greg McKendry, 60, an usher and the church's treasurer-elect, was killed, Owen said. Linda Kraeger, 61, died later in the day at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Kenner said.

Church member Becky Harmon said she saw Adkisson pull his shotgun out of the case and step toward McKendry. She told WBIR-TV that he barely got off another shot before church members tackled him. "The hardest part was that there were so many children there at the church today, and they all had to see this," she said.

Seven gunshot victims -- all adults -- were taken to the medical center. Owen said one was treated and released, and the others were in "varying stages of serious to critical condition."

The shooting followed other church tragedies.

In December, Matthew Murray killed four people at a church and missionary center in Colorado. In August, Eiken Elam Saimon shot and killed three people at a church in Anderson, Mo. (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>