YORK COUNTY, S.C. — A prominent emergency room doctor, his wife, and their two grandchildren were among six people killed in a York County, South Carolina, shooting Wednesday afternoon, the York County Sheriff's Office confirmed early Thursday. Former NFL player Phillip Adams has been identified as the suspect in the shooting.
Around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff's deputies responded to the reported shooting at the home in the 4400 block of Marshall Road in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Inside the home, deputies found 70-year-old Dr. Robert Lesslie and his wife, 69-year-old Barbara Lesslie, dead, both with apparent gunshot wounds. Their grandchildren, 9-year-old Adah Lesslie and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie, were also shot and killed. A fifth person, identified as 38-year-old James Lewis, who was working at the home at the time, was shot and killed. A sixth person, 38-year-old Robert Shook, was being treated for injuries and died on Saturday.
Editor's Note: On Saturday, April 10, the sole survivor in the deadly Rock Hill shooting died from his injuries, according to the York County Coroner. Despite being shot several times, Robert Shook was able to call his supervisor at GSM Services, who then made the first 911 call related to the shooting. Shook leaves behind three children.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson read a statement on behalf of the victims' families that said, in part, they feel they "are truly in the midst of the unimaginable." Despite that pain, they went on to say their "hope is in Jesus Christ" and that their "hearts are bent toward forgiveness and peace."
"There is nothing more powerful I can say today or you can print ... than the words I just read," Sheriff Tolson said after reading the families' statement aloud.
The York County Sheriff's Department said during a press conference Phillip Adams "forced entry" into the Lesslies' home.
Authorities said Phillip Adams used two weapons -- one .45-caliber and one 9 mm -- for the shooting. They said there is no evidence at this time that those weapons were illegally obtained.
The York County Sheriff's Office released two 911 calls dispatchers received about the shooting.
The first call came around 4:43 p.m. from a supervisor at GSM Services in Gastonia.
"I just had one call me screaming that he had been shot, and the other technician has also been shot and not responsive," the supervisor said.
A second 911 call came at 4:46 p.m. from a man who said he was mowing his lawn when he heard gunshots.
"I saw the guy running around, and I heard the popping, but I didn't realize it was the shooting until I saw this guy laying on the ground," the man said.
Sheriff Tolson said his detectives are still trying to determine a motive.
Sheriff Tolson says in the hours since...his detectives have gotten little to no sleep.
"There's nothing about this right now that makes sense to any of us," Sheriff Tolson said. "That's why we're working so hard."
Father confirms son, a former NFL player, is responsible for the shooting
"I think the football messed him up," Phillip Adams's father Alonzo exclusively told WCNC Charlotte Thursday morning.
"He was a good kid. He was a good kid," his dad said. "He didn't talk much and he didn't bother nobody."
Other than living close to the victims, investigators said it's unclear what kind of relationship Adams maintained, specifically with Dr. Lesslie.
Coroner Sabrina Gast said Phillip Adams' cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Phillip Adams was originally from Rock Hill and had played in the NFL for several years. He most recently played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers.
Phillip Adams attended South Carolina State University from Fall 2006 to Fall 2010 and played for their team from 2006 to 2009. According to SCSU, Phillip Adams did not graduate.
Adams' father, Alonzo Adams, came forward to WCNC Charlotte reporter Richard DeVayne. The elder Adams said he believed football played a role in his son's actions and offered prayers for the Lesslie family.
The York County Sherrif Kevin Tolson did not confirm anything about Phillip Adams' medical history.
A community mourns the tragedy
"I've lived in Rock Hill my entire life and Dr. Lesslie was my doctor growing up," York County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Trent Faris said early Thursday morning. "This is hard on me. Dr. Lesslie has been one of the people that everybody knows. He started at Riverview Medical Center in Rock Hill and has been a staple in Rock Hill for years."
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Dr. Lesslie treated patients at Riverview Family Medicine & Urgent Care. WCNC Charlotte reporter Kendall Morris went to the clinic and found some flowers were already laid at the front door, and a note from staff indicating they were closed on Thursday to allow staff to grieve and process what happened. The note also promised a re-opening update on their website and Facebook page.
In a released statement, York County chairperson Christi Cox acknowledged the tragedy and expressed thanks to deputies for their response.
“We mourn together as a community in this tragic loss, and words cannot express the heaviness in our hearts,” said Cox. “We come together in prayer and offer our deepest condolences to the families directly impacted by yesterday’s heartbreaking events. York County is thankful for our York County Sherriff’s Office and all the law enforcement agencies and first responders who selflessly and tirelessly worked throughout the evening, night, and morning hours to protect our community.”
Joel and Steve Long, co-owners of GSM Service, who employed Lewis and the unnamed injured worker, shared their condolences on their Facebook page:
As you can imagine, our team at GSM Services is heart broken from the events that transpired yesterday evening in York, SC.
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.
In the coming days, our focus is on helping these families and our team members cope with this tragedy.
We wish to thank the law enforcement and emergency management personnel who have been so helpful with their communication, empathy, and professionalism as we dealt with this yesterday and overnight.
We also want to thank our community for all the support for our team and these families. Our community has helped us build this company through all of our good times and we are blessed knowing this support continues during bad times.
Please continue to keep our families in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster took to Twitter to express his condolences and offered prayers for the Lesslie family.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R - 05) tweeted out his own mourning, noting he was friends with the Lesslie family. He also shared condolences for the family of James Lewis.
The search for Phillip Adams
Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, the York County Sheriff's Office first confirmed they were searching for an armed person.
Law enforcement urged nearby residents to stay indoors as they used helicopters and drones to search for the suspect, later identified as Phillip Adams. The York County Sheriff's Department said they were able to determine Phillip Adams as the suspect because of evidence recovered at the scene of the crime. It was not released what those items were.
After midnight, officials said they had located Phillip Adams.
At this time, the details leading up to the incident remain under investigation.
Officials spent hours searching the neighborhood in the rural, southern suburbs of Rock Hill, South Carolina, which is about a 30-minute drive from Charlotte, North Carolina, and an hours drive from Columbia, South Carolina,