York County Mass Shooting: What We Know
Five people, including a prominent doctor and two children, were shot to death Wednesday evening near Rock Hill, South Carolina. A sixth person was hospitalized with serious injuries. Authorities on Thursday confirmed former NFL player Phillip Adams, whom they said killed himself overnight, was the suspect in the slayings.
Here’s what we know about the mass shooting as of Thursday evening.
York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said two people made separate 911 calls about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday reporting shots fired at the house of Robert and Barbara Lesslie on Marshall Road near Rock Hill.
"We’re a heating and air condition company and my two technicians are there," a man is heard in a 911 call played by authorities Thursday at a news conference. "One just called me. He can’t talk he’s screaming, said 'I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot,' and I asked him where the other one is, and he’s saying he’s laying there unresponsive and he was shot also. I can’t get any other information out of him."
Tolson said when deputies got to the scene, they found two victims — one dead and one severely wounded — outside, and then found four victims — all members of the Lesslie family — shot to death in a room toward the back of the house.
Tolson said .45-caliber and 9-mm guns were used in the shooting.
Deputies identified Adams as the suspect based on unspecified evidence at the scene and began a search for him. Tolson said deputies learned Adams was staying with his parents at a nearby home and got a search warrant. They were able to get Adams’ parents from the house by about 10:30 p.m., and they found Adams dead in a bedroom about 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Tolson said Adams shot himself before deputies got to him but specified that no officers heard the gunshot.
Who Are The Victims?
Five people were killed in the shooting, with a sixth in critical condition at a Charlotte hospital as of Thursday. According to the York County coroner’s office, the people who died were:
- Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70.
- Barbara Lesslie, 69.
- Adah Lesslie, 9.
- Noah Lesslie, 5.
- James Lewis, 38.
A sixth person, Robert Shook, 38, of Cherryville, North Carolina, was also shot. His cousin told The Associated Press that he was "fighting for his life" as of Thursday afternoon.
Robert and Barbara Lesslie were married, and Adah and Noah Lesslie were their grandchildren. Robert Lesslie was a well-known doctor in Rock Hill. Tolson called him a “pillar in the community” and said he had been a patient of Lesslie’s at one point.
In addition to owning two urgent care clinics in Rock Hill and practicing medicine, Lesslie was the supervising medical director at Winthrop University for more than 25 years. He was previously medical director of the emergency room at Rock Hill General Hospital for about 15 years. He was also known for his lectures, columns in The Charlotte Observer and for providing space for SANE nurses to conduct sexual assault exams on survivors. And he wrote a book, “Angels in the ER,” according to his website.
Lewis lived in Gastonia, North Carolina, and along with the surviving shooting victim, was at the Lesslies’ house to work on air conditioning, authorities said. The Gaston Gazette reported Lewis was a father of three who worked at GSM Services. Lewis’ father, Tom Lewis, described him to The Gazette as his “best friend” and a passionate father who “wanted something better for his kids.”
Tolson on Thursday read this statement “from the families of some of the victims:”
“We would like to address the outpouring of heartbreak, shock, grief and support from our family, friends and community. We are truly in the midst of the unimaginable. The losses we are suffering cannot be uttered at this time. While we know there are no answers that will satisfy the question, ‘Why?’ We are sure of one thing: We do not grieve as those without hope. Our hope is found in the promise of Jesus Christ, and we are enveloped by peace that surpasses all understanding. To that end, our hearts are bent toward forgiveness and peace, toward love and connectedness, toward celebration and unity. We honor all those involved in this story with prayers and compassion.”
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Who Was Phillip Adams, Accused Of Killing 5?
Phillip Adams, 32, was a former football player who went to Rock Hill High and played at South Carolina State before going to the NFL in 2010. He played professionally for the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons.
Adams’ parents lived near the Lesslies’ home in Rock Hill, and his father told Charlotte TV station WCNC that he had recently moved in.
According to The Associated Press, it was unclear if Adams suffered any long-lasting concussion-related injuries from his time playing football.
“I can say he’s a good kid — he was a good kid, and I think the football messed him up,” his father, Alonzo Adams, told WCNC. “He didn't talk much, and he didn't bother nobody.”
The AP reported Adams' agent, Scott Casterline, said he "was part of my family. I loved him."
“He’s a great kid, a great guy. This is so unlike him. He had to not be in his right mind, obviously,” Casterline said.
“All of us who knew Philip are shaking our heads. He struggled away from the game. I tried to get him to come to Texas. I was going to find him a job, but he wouldn’t leave South Carolina because he had a son. He was a good father.
"Seeing Philip shoot two kids, it’s not him. I can’t fathom it. It’s devastating for the victims and the families,” Casterline said.
The AP reported that a source told reporters Adams had been treated by Lesslie, but Tolson would not confirm that Thursday at a news conference.
What Comes Next?
Tolson said deputies are still investigating the events of Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.
“We have probably more questions than you do about this case right now,” Tolson told reporters Thursday.
The sheriff did not give a timetable for when the investigation might be complete. He did not say what investigators think the motive might have been.
“There’s nothing right now that makes any sense to any of us,” Tolson said.
First ARP Rock Hill, where Lesslie family went to church, opened up its sanctuary until 8 p.m. Thursday for community members to grieve.
“Our guess is that many of you are struggling with grief, doubt, confusion, questions, and concerns,” pastors said in an announcement to church members.
Associate pastor Jon Oliphant told WFAE that the Lesslies were longtime members.
"We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of these four church members that we loved so deeply and cared about,” Oliphant said. “And our hearts go out to the other victims and to the family of the one who did this horrible thing."
Tim Hicks was in downtown Rock Hill on Thursday and told WFAE the mass shooting was “a terrible tragedy” and noted Robert Lesslie’s contributions to the community.
Hicks said he couldn’t remember anything quite like this in York County before.
“I think we can better accept a tragedy if it was something random like a car wreck that wipes out a family,” Hicks said. “But something of this sort, it really does make me pause.”
Piedmont Medical Center said in a statement that Dr. Robert Lesslie “touched the lives of countless patients and staff” over 15 years. “The impact he has made on health care in York County will carry on,” the statement said.
Winthrop University President George Hynd said the school community was “deeply saddened” by the mass shooting and said Lesslie played an integral role in helping the campus safely reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“His contributions to our community were wide-ranging, and students, in particular, have long benefited from referrals to his practice when additional care was needed beyond our scope,” Hynd said.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster called the mass shooting “tragic and heartbreaking” and asked people to pray for the victims’ families.