Ex-NFL player Phillip Adams was gunman in South Carolina mass shooting that killed 5, including 2 kids

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Authorities in South Carolina have confirmed that former NFL player Phillip Adams was the person who killed five people, including a prominent doctor, his wife and their two grandchildren in South Carolina.

They said in a news conference Thursday that they had not yet determined a motive.

"There's nothing right now that makes sense to any of us, said York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson.

Tolson said evidence left at the scene of the shooting led them to Adams as a suspect. He said they went to Adams' parents' home, evacuated them and then tried to talk Adams out of the house. Eventually, they found him dead of a single gunshot wound to the head in a bedroom, he said.

Sheriff's office gives update on case


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Authorities in South Carolina have confirmed that former NFL player Phillip Adams was the person who killed five people, including a prominent doctor, his wife and their two grandchildren in South Carolina.



Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara, 69, were pronounced dead at the scene Wednesday along with grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, the York County coroner's office said.

A man who had been working at the Lesslie home, James Lewis, 38, from Gaston, was found shot to death outside, and a sixth person, who was not identified, was hospitalized with "serious gunshot wounds," authorities said.

Tolson said evidence left at the scene of the shooting led them to Adams as a suspect. He said they went to Adams' parents' home, evacuated them and then tried to talk Adams out of the house. Eventually, they found him dead of a single gunshot wound to the head in a bedroom, he said.

Tolson said both a .45-caliber and 9mm weapon were used in Wednesday's shooting.

A person briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press earlier Thursday that Adams had been treated by Lesslie, who lived near his parents' home in Rock Hill. Adams killed himself after midnight with a .45-caliber weapon, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

However, Tolson would not confirm that Adams had been the doctor's patient.

Adams, 33, played in 78 NFL games over five seasons for six teams. He joined the 49ers in 2010 as a seventh-round draft pick out of South Carolina State, and though he rarely started, he went on to play for New England, Seattle, Oakland and the New York Jets before finishing his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

In this handout image provided by the NFL, Phillip Adams of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)



As a rookie late in the 2010 season, Adams suffered a severe ankle injury that required surgery that included several screws being inserted into his leg. He never played for the 49ers again, getting released just before the 2011 season began. Later, with the Raiders, he had two concussions over three games in 2012.

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' father told a Charlotte television station that he blamed football for problems his son had, and which might have led him to commit Wednesday's violence.

"I can say he's a good kid - he was a good kid, and I think the football messed him up," Alonzo Adams told WCNC-TV. "He didn't talk much and he didn't bother nobody."

Deputies were called around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday to the Lesslies' home, which is not visible from the road. They evacuated the neighbors as they spent hours searching for a suspect with police dogs.

Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, with their family. (Source: RobertLesslie.com)



Allison Hope, who lives across from Adams' parents' modest one-story brick home, about a mile from the Lesslies, said police allowed her to return home around 9 p.m. Wednesday. Moments later, a vehicle pulled into the Adams' driveway and law enforcement quickly surrounded the property.

She said they spent hours negotiating with Phillip 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."

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 Phillip 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 Phillip shoot two kids, it's not him. I can't fathom it. It's devastating for the victims and the families," Casterline said.

Former Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith, who trained Adams leading up to the 2010 draft and after he entered the league, said he was a hard worker. He and Casterline both said Adams had opened a shop selling smoothies and juice before COVID-19 hit, and emphasized he didn't drink or do drugs.

"He didn't drink not one bit of alcohol," Smith said. "He was a bit of a neat freak. In his house, everything was precisely placed."

Lesslie had worked for decades as an emergency room doctor, board-certified in both emergency medicine and occupational medicine and serving as emergency department medical director for nearly 15 years at Rock Hill General Hospital, according to his website.

He founded two urgent care centers, wrote a weekly medical column for The Charlotte Observer, and also wrote a book, "Angels in the ER," collecting what he termed "inspiring true stories" from his work. A biography page said he and his wife raised four children.

"I know without a doubt that life is fragile," Lesslie wrote in his book. "I have come to understand that humility may be the greatest virtue. And I am convinced we need to take the time to say the things we deeply feel to the people we deeply care about."

"Dr. Lesslie was a pillar in this community, with what he was able to give back to this community," Tolson said during the news conference. "He was a longtime doctor. He had treated me in the past at his clinic. He was very involved in in law enforcement with providing space for the same nurses to do sexual assault exams on sexual assault victims. I'm very involved in that. And so, you know, we tend to eulogize and canonize folks, it kind of waters it down. But I would not want to water down anything that Dr. Lesslie did are meant for this community. He knew everyone, he treated everyone with respect. And if you reflect on the family statement, that is the type of family that Dr. Lesslie raised, because that's the type of man that he was."

The Lesslie family issued the following statement on Thursday:

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.
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