Lauren Lewis, Daily Mail, April 8, 2021
The prominent South Carolina doctor who was shot dead along with his wife and two grandchildren by former NFL player Phillip Adams on Wednesday had been treating the gunman and had stopped giving him medication, a US congressman who was friends with the victims alleged.
Adams, 33, a cornerback who played six seasons in the NFL and suffered multiple concussions, killed himself with a single shot to the head after midnight Thursday, hours after shooting six people, five of them fatally.
Rep Ralph Norman, a Republican from South Carolina, told WISTV that it is his ‘understanding’ that Dr. Robert Lesslie was treating Adams and had stopped giving Adams medication.
Norman, who described himself as a close friend of Lesslie and his wife, said he was told by law enforcement that withholding medication from Adams led to the deadly attack.
A person briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press earlier that Adams had been treated by Lesslie.
However, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson would not confirm that Adams had been the doctor’s patient.
Adams’ father, Alonzo Adams, confirmed to WCNC that his son was the gunman, and blamed the tragedy on his son’s being a football player.
‘I can say he’s a good kid,’ the father told the station. ‘I think the football messed him up.’
Adams had only recently moved in with his parents in Rock Hill, just a 2 minutes’ drive from Dr Robert Lesslie’s home. He had a criminal history, which included assault and weapons charges.
Tolson held a press conference on Thursday afternoon and confirmed that Adams used two firearms, a .45 caliber and a 9mm gun, to fatally shoot Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, along with grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, and James Lewis, 38, from Gastonia, who is unrelated to the family.
Tolson said investigators still have a lot of questions about the shooting and had not yet determined a motive.
‘There’s nothing right now that makes sense to any of us,’ he told reporters.
The sheriff opened the press conference by reading a statement from the Lesslie family, which said in part: ‘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.’
The Lesslies were found suffering from gunshot wounds in one room at their home and were pronounced dead, while Lewis, who had been working at the property, was discovered outside.
A sixth person, identified in local news outlets as Robert Shook, survived the shooting despite being shot multiple times.
During the news press conference, Sheriff Tolson said he was in a ‘very critical’ condition.
Tolson played several 911 calls reporting the shooting, including one that was placed by Shook and Lewis’ colleague. He tells an emergency dispatcher that he had received a call from Shook, saying: ‘I’ve been shot, call 911!’
The caller said Shook was slurring his speech, and speculated that the air conditioning installer had been shot in the head or face.
Another caller said: ‘I think there’s been a bad shooting. Maybe four people.’ He said he heard about 20 shots fired.
Family members told WBTV Shook is a married father of three from Cherryville. He has undergone multiple surgeries and was fighting for his life.
‘He is a hard-working man who put himself through school to become a certified hearing and air service worker, to provide for his family,’ Shook’s cousin, Heather Michele, told the station. ‘He is just a wonderful, wonderful man.’
WSOC reported that Lewis worked at Gaston Sheet Metal Services in Gastonia and that the person who was wounded in the massacre was also an employee at GSM Services.
Lewis’ parents told the local station that he was their only child and was a single father of three.
‘I keep on expecting to wake up, “Oh, it was just a bad dream,” but it’s not. It’s real,’ Tom Lewis, James’ father, said. said. ‘I would like to find out why this guy did what he did.’
James’ mother said he was working as an HVAC technician to provide for his three children.
‘He helped anybody, he was a kind guy, a great dad. It’s just so stupid,’ mom Linda Tucker said.
Lewis’ employer shared a post on its Facebook page on Thursday morning, addressing the shooting.
‘Both men involved in this incident are long-standing, beloved members of our family at GSM. These men embody the values we strive to achieve at GSM and are family focused, up-beat, and wonderful team members who cared about all the people they encountered,’ read the status update.
The sheriff’s office spent hours searching for the ‘armed and dangerous’ suspect, later identified as Adams, before finding him at his parents’ home on Marshall Road, about a quarter of a mile away from the Lesslies’ residence.
Alonso Adams, Phillip’s father, said his son had recently moved to Rock Hill from Fort Mill.
‘I don’t think he ever did anybody any harm,’ he said of his son. ‘He didn’t talk much and he didn’t bother nobody.’
Alonso added that he knew the Lesslie family, and that Robert had treated him in the past.
‘All I can say is we pray for the family,’ Alonso said. ‘He used to be my doctor a long time ago. I know they were good folks down there. We’re gonna keep them in our prayers.’
Alonzo said officers came to his house on Wednesday night and led him and his severely disabled wife out of the residence, where Adams killed himself.
Allison Hope, who lives across from the Adams’ modest one-story brick home, about a quarter of a mile down the road from the Lesslies, said police allowed her to return home around 9pm Wednesday. Moments later, a vehicle pulled into their driveway and law enforcement quickly surrounded the property.
She said they 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, before Adams shot himself.
‘This is something I can’t grasp yet. I can’t put it all together and I’m trying to, and I witnessed it,’ Hope said. ‘I feel bad for him because if it was mental or something going on in his life or whatever, you know, he needed help, and that’s the sad part.’
York County Sheriff’s Office’s spokesperson Trent Faris said deputies were called to the Lesslie home in the Rock Hill area around 4:45 pm.
‘We are shocked that this type of incident happened here,’ Faris said.
No motive has been determined at this time.
‘None of us can figure out why,’ Faris said.
He added: ‘It doesn’t happen here. It’s one of those strange things that a lot of people are going to have a hard time understanding and we just hope that everybody understands that we’re going to do everything we can to try to figure out why this happened here in Rock Hill, South Carolina.’
Faris said Dr. 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.’
Adams, a cornerback out of South Carolina State, was a seventh-round NFL Draft pick in 2010. Although he was never a standout in the league, he did play in 78 games over five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, and Atlanta Falcons.
His best seasons came in his two years in Oakland, where he appeared in 31 games and recorded a pair of interceptions.
Rarely a starter, Adams finished his career with the Falcons in 2015.
Adams earned just over $3million over parts of his six NFL season, according to Spotrac.com.
Adams suffered multiple injuries over the course of his football career, including a pair of concussions, which he sustained while playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2012. Despite that, he only missed one game that season.
Raiders spokespeople in Las Vegas did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment on Thursday.
Whether he suffered long-lasting concussion-related injuries 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.
Adams often isolated himself, even as a player, his agent, Scott Casterline, told the AP. Casterline said he spoke regularly with Adams’ father, who left him a voicemail Wednesday morning.
‘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.
Adams had a criminal record, which included an arrest in 2009 on charges of misdemeanor assault and battery, although he was not convicted. He was also arrested in Charlotte for carrying a concealed gun in 2016.