Former Falcons player broke into home, murdered prominent doctor and his family, sheriff says

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The gunman accused of killing five people in South Carolina was a former NFL player who played for the Atlanta Falcons, according to authorities.

Police identified Phillip Adams as the gunman. Adams killed himself after the shooting, the local coroner said.

[RELATED: Who is suspected South Carolina gunman Phillip Adams?]

The mass shooting happened Wednesday afternoon at the home of a prominent doctor in Rock Hill, SC, Channel 2′s sister station WSOC-TV reported.

The victims included the doctor and his family as well as a HVAC technician who was working at the home at the time.

The York County coroner’s office identified the victims as Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, along with their grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5. All four victims were found in a bedroom in the home.

The fifth victim, James Lewis, 38, from Gastonia, NC, was found dead outside. Lewis was a single father of 3 kids. Another HVAC technician was shot and is in critical condition at the hospital, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

One person survived the mass shooting but is in critical condition. WSOC-TV reported the survivor is Robert Shook of Cherryville. Shook was working on the AC unit at the home with Lewis.

A neighbor who called 911 to report the shooting told dispatch he heard up to 20 shots. Tolson confirmed there were multiple gunshots fired and that Adams used two guns, a .45 and a 9mm, in the murders.

Tolson said Adams lived with his parents down the street from the Lesslie family. They do not have a motive right now and are working hard to find a connection between Adams and the family. Tolson said there is no indication that Adams was a patient of Dr. Lesslie and they don’t believe anything was taken from the Lesslie home.

“We have probably more questions than what you do about this case right now. We are working hard to provide some answers,” Tolson said. “There’s nothing about this right now that makes sense to any of us.”


Tolson said Adams forced entry into the Lesslie home and “left evidence” there linking him to the shooting. They did not elaborate on that evidence but said by the time they tracked Adams down, he was already dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Tolson said Lesslie was well-known and loved in the community.

“Dr. Lesslie was a pillar in this community with what he was able to give back to this community,” Tolson said.

The family of the victims released the following statement:

“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”

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Adams, 33, played as a defensive back for multiple teams including the 49ers and the Falcons after starring at South Carolina State.

He played in 13 games and had 31 tackles for the Falcons in 2015, which was his final season in the NFL. He also suffered multiple injuries in his career, including concussions and a broken left ankle.

The Falcons released the following statement about the shooting:

“We are aware of the senseless tragedy in Rock Hill, S.C., involving former player Phillip Adams. We offer our heartfelt sympathies and deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those who have been affected.”

The Associated Press and WSOC-TV contributed to this report.

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