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, 32, a cornerback who played six seasons in the NFL and suffered multiple concussions, killed himself with a single shot to the head early 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 also told The Associated Press earlier that Adams had been treated by Lesslie – however authorities have yet to confirm that claim.
Adams’ father, Alonzo Adams, told WCNC that his son’s being a football player was to blame for the tragedy.
‘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 two-minutes drive from Dr Lesslie’s home. The athlete had a criminal history, which included assault and weapons charges.
York County Sheriff Kevin 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 their grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, and James Lewis, 38, from Gastonia, who is unrelated to the family.
NEW: @RepRalphNorman tells me his understanding is that Dr. Robert Lesslie was treating Phillip Adams and had stopped giving Adams medication – he says he was told that triggered the killings – Norman says he was told this by law enforcement. @WBTV_News pic.twitter.com/5u7TzOY3iP
— Alex Giles WBTV (@AlexGilesNews) April 8, 2021
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.’
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster released a short statement on Twitter, calling the killings ‘tragic and heartbreaking’.
Just before 5pm Wednesday the Lesslies were found suffering from gunshot wounds in one room at their home and were pronounced dead, while Lewis, an air conditioning repairman who had been working at the property, was discovered in the driveway.
A sixth person, identified by local news outlets as Lewis’ colleague Robert Shook, survived despite being shot multiple times.
During the news conference, Sheriff Tolson said Shook 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 just received a frantic 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 hit in the head or face.
Another caller says: ‘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 both Shook and Lewis worked at Gaston Sheet Metal Services in Gastonia.
Lewis’ parents told the local station that he was their only child and was a single father of three children, including a 16-year-old and 13-year-old twins.
‘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.
Gaston Sheet Metal Services shared a post on its Facebook page on Thursday morning addressing the shooting involving two of its employees.
‘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,’ the post read.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene within eight minutes of getting the first 911 call and found unspecified evidence that helped them identified Adams as the gunman.
They spent the next several hours searching for him with police K-9s, before locating him at his parents’ home on Marshall Road, about a quarter of a mile away from the Lesslies’ residence.
Adams’ father Alonzo 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.’
Alonzo added that he knew the Lesslie family, and that Dr Lesslie had treated him in the past.
‘All I can say is we pray for the family,’ Alonzo 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 officers 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 spokesman Trent Faris said deputies were called to the Lesslie home in the Rock Hill area around 4.45pm.
‘We are shocked that this type of incident happened here,’ Faris said.
Faris said a motive for the shooting has not been determined.
‘None of us can figure out why,’ he said. ‘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.
As a rookie late in the 2010 season, Adams suffered a severe ankle injury that required surgery that included several screws being inserted into the leg. He never played for the 49ers again, getting released just before the 2011 season began and signing with New England. Only in 2013 with the Raiders was he on a roster for a full season.
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.
In 2009, Adams’ mother, Phyllis Adams, was involved in a horrific car wreck that has left her severely disabled and wheelchair-bound.
In an interview with The Times and Democrat in 2010, Phillip was quoted as saying: ‘[My mother] is my motivation,” he said. “We can look through life, and you go through adversity. This is one of the biggest things I have had to deal with.’
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.’
Adams was arrested for assault and gun charges prior to moving back to South Carolina hometown and wiping out doctor neighbor and his family – before turning .45 caliber on himself
Adams suffered several concussions during his football career and was also arrested for assault and carrying a concealed weapon, according to records.
Before turning pro, Adams was arrested for misdemeanor assault and battery in 2009, although he was not convicted. He was also arrested in Charlotte for carrying a concealed gun in 2016.
Court officials in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for more information.
On Thursday, Adams’s father Alonzo told Charlotte news station WCNC that he blames football for what happened to his 32-year-old son.
‘I can say he’s a good kid,’ Alonzo said. ‘I think the football messed him up.’
Alonzo did not go into further detail, but Phillip suffered at least two concussions while playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2012, although he curiously missed only one game because of the brain injuries.
One of those concussions occurred in a game against Cleveland when Adams collided with a teammate while hauling in an interception.
He was later asked by Raiders.com to describe what was going through his head on the play.
‘I don’t know,’ Adams said. ‘I couldn’t tell you, but my teammates, the whole secondary we’re all going for that ball in the heat of the battle. I was kind of woozy, but, we got the turnover and I was happy about that.’
Raiders spokespeople in Las Vegas did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for more information about Adams’s concussion history.
Adams, a cornerback, was drafted out of South Carolina State in the seventh-round of the NFL Draft in 2010.
Although he was never a standout in the league, he did play regularly over six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, 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. He also had success as a punt returner.
Adams earned just over $3million over parts of his six NFL season, according to Spotrac.com.
As a collegiate player, Adams credited his mother as his motivation.
An auto accident left Phyllis Paden Adams in a wheelchair in 2010, according to multiple reports. Her current condition is not know, but at the time, Adams said he believed she would walk again.
‘She will walk one day,’ he told theTandD.com. ‘That’s what we believe. You know, there is always hope.’
Outside of telling a few coaches and teammates, Adams kept the accident private for most of his final season at South Carolina State while he prepared for the NFL Draft Combine.
Throughout that process, he explained, Adams focused on his mother’s perseverance.
‘(My mother) is my motivation,’ he said. ‘We can look through life, and you go through adversity. This is one of the biggest things I have had to deal with. Right in the middle of football season. God was basically like, ‘Are you going to fall or get back up and keep pushing?’ I think I got back up, and my momma stays on me and is a big inspiration.
‘We have to motivate each other,’ he added. ‘I motivate her. She motivates me. Come on, let’s go. She’s a trooper. A real trooper. I have no doubt that she is going to build her strength back up.’
In May of 2010, after Adams had signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent, several NFL players helped put on a fund raiser for Paden Adams, a longtime teacher.
Ultimately the group raised $15,000 for her care.
‘I’m just speechless,’ Paden-Adams said from her wheelchair, as quoted by HeraldOnline.com. ‘I’ve gotten more kisses than a pig at a kissing contest. It’s been wonderful.’
The Associated Press reported that Adams’s parents lived near his victims, who included Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, as well as grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5.
Adams was reportedly a patient of Lesslie, who worked for decades as an emergency room doctor. It is not known publicly why Lesslie was treating Adams, or if any head injury was involved.
Concussions have not been definitively linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.
CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously.
Several former NFL players who were diagnosed with CTE died by suicide, including Adams’s former Patriots teammate, Aaron Hernandez, who hanged himself in prison following a murder conviction.
‘We don’t know why people get CTE,’ Manning told DailyMail.com in 2018. ‘I think the most that it’s been looked at is in football players, but all that we know is what the brain looks like after they die. We don’t know what happens during people’s lives. We also don’t know how the findings correlate with people’s symptoms.’
As Manning explained, there is no established connection between football and CTE, nor is there a proven link between concussions and CTE: ‘There’s a lot of research that needs to be done to fill in the blanks there.’
To many, the 2017 Boston University CTE Center study that posthumously diagnosed 110 out of 111 former NFL players with the disease seemed rather convincing, if not conclusive.
According to Lee E. Goldstein, a professor at Boston University School of Medicine and College of Engineering, concussions may not be an indicator for CTE, which can lead to lead to behavioral or cognitive issues, and even dementia.
‘We have a substantial number of cases in the [brain] bank who have died and meet the neuropathological diagnostic criteria for CTE, and have never had a concussion,’ Goldstein told DailyMail.com in 2019.
‘We see these young people…17-year olds with evidence of CTE,’ he continued. ‘There shouldn’t be any evidence of any neurodegenerative disease at that age. We know that we have quite a number of cases in people of that age, early 20s or late teens, who have never had a witnessed, documented concussion in their life.’
Goldstein was a part of the Boston University research team that published a ground-breaking study showing that exposure to repeated head trauma – and not necessarily concussions – was the root cause of CTE.
SOURCE: Daily Mail,