YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV/AP) - The gunman who killed five people, including a prominent doctor, his wife, their two grandchildren and a worker, was a former NFL pro Phillip Adams, the Associated Press reports.
Adams died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, deputies said. Adams left information at the scene and they were able to identify him, according to officials.
The shooting happened just before 5 p.m. on Marshall Road.
Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70 (pictured below), his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, and their grandchildren, Adah Lesslie and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie, were killed in the shooting. Deputies say the family members were found in the back room dead with gunshot wounds. Adah Lesslie and Noah Lesslie lived on the property with their parents, Robert Lesslie’s son and daughter-in-law.
A fifth victim, identified as 38-year-old James Lewis, from Gaston County, was working at the home when he was fatally shot, according to the York County coroner’s office. A sixth person, identified as Robert Shook, was taken to the hospital with serious injuries from gunshot wounds. Shook’s family says he was able to call for help. He has since been in multiple surgeries.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said Adams’ parents live near the doctor’s home in Rock Hill, and that he had been treated by the doctor. The source said Adams killed himself after midnight with a .45 caliber weapon.
Rep. Ralph Norman says his understanding is that Dr. Lesslie was treating Adams and had stopped giving Adams medication. Norman says he was told by law enforcement that this triggered the killings.
Deputies played 911 calls from the shooting during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
In the first 911 call played, a man said he heard from a man who kept saying “I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot, Please call 911.”
“I think he’s been shot in the head or something,” the 911 caller said, saying the man had slurred speech.
The second caller, who said he was out cutting the grass, said. “I think there’s been a bad shooting. Maybe four people.” He said he heard about 20 shots.
“We are truly in the midst of the unimaginable,” York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.
Lesslie’s family says if you would like to do something for the family, the grandchildren would like you stop by the free pantry and libraries. Barbara and Robert Lesslie would like you to be good stewards of the community, Tolson said.
Tolson says Dr. Lesslie was a “pillar” in the community.
“We are shocked that this type of incident happened here,” said Trent Faris, with the York County Sheriff’s Office. “This is a very tragic situation.”
The family of Robert and Barbara Lesslie and their grandchildren put out a statement Thursday afternoon:
“On behalf of the Lesslie, Alexander, and Kulbok clans, 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 of those involved in this story with prayers and compassion specifically for the Shook family, the Lewis family, and the Adams family.
“As Robert Lesslie would say, when peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul.
“If you would like to do something for the family,
“Adah and Noah would want you to stock the free pantries and libraries in your community.
“Barbara and Robert would want you to be good stewards of what you are given, leaving every place better than it was before you got there.
“Adah, Noah, Barbara, Robert, and the rest of the family would ask any memorials or gifts to be sent to Camp Joy North Carolina (918 South Pleasantburg Dr., Greenville, SC 29607) in honor of hope and the promise of eternity.
“-The Lesslie, Alexander, and Kulbok Families”
Dr. Lesslie was a prominent doctor in Rock Hill who published several books. Lesslie and his wife were married for at least 35 years.
Faris said Dr. Lesslie started the Riverview Medical Center.
“I’ve lived in Rock Hill my whole life and Dr. Lesslie was my doctor,” Faris said. “A lot of people know Doctor Lesslie.”
The shooting led to an hours-long search for what officers called an “armed and dangerous” suspect.
The person deputies believe is responsible for the shooting was found at his home on Marshall Road, later identified as Adams. Investigators have not released a motive.
Deputies said they were at the home conducting a search warrant.
Law enforcement helicopters and drones were used to look for the suspect. Officials asked citizens in the area to stay inside their homes and lock their doors during the search.
“We have a lot more information to gather,” Tolson said. “There’s nothing about this that makes sense to anybody.”
Rock Hill School District later released a statement about the shooting, stating:
“The Rock Hill School District and our community are at a loss for words to express our sadness and heartbreak for the tragedy that occurred in our community on Wednesday. The district views itself as an extension of the community, and when families in our care are hurting, we are hurting also. We cannot imagine the grief of the Lesslie, Lewis, and Adams families.
“Dr. Lesslie was a tremendous human being who cared for innumerable people in his medical career. He and his wife Barbara were pillars of our community. Their beautiful grandchildren, Adah and Noah, were students in our language immersion program at Cherry Park Elementary School. The teachers, staff and classmates of Adah and Noah are hurting and confused, as are many in our community. We may never understand why this has taken place.
“We also want to acknowledge and extend our thoughts and prayers to Alonzo Adams and Phyllis Paden-Adams, the parents of Phillip Adams who graduated from Rock Hill High School in 2006. This is tragic for everyone. Mrs. Paden-Adams was once a teacher in our district and worked with many students to make a difference in their lives.
“When school resumes next week after spring break, we will have trained counselors available for students and staff to talk with at our schools as we all continue to process this unspeakable tragedy. We will continue to keep our Rock Hill families in our thoughts and prayers.”