Onetime cornerback for the 49ers, Phillip Adams, is the sole suspect in a mass shooting on Wednesday in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Adams is believed to have shot six people, killing five of them, and then turning the gun on himself early on Thursday following a protracted standoff with police. He was 32 years old.
The victims in the shooting were a well known area doctor and his wife, their two grandchildren, and a man working outside the home. The Associated Press identified Adams as the shooter following reports on the shooting by CNN, the New York Times and others. Adams reportedly lived about a mile down the road from the victims' home with his father and disabled mother.
Rock Hill, a town of about 70,000, sits just across the state line from Charlotte, North Carolina.
The shooting happened around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday on the property of Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69. Police arrived on the scene to find the Lesslies dead along with their grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5. James Lewis, 38, was working outside the home and was fatally shot as well.
Dr. Lesslie had been a physician in the Rock Hill community since 1981, and the AP reports that he had treated Adams. Adams's father, Alonzo Adams, told North Carolina television station WXIA that he also knew Dr. Lesslie many years ago.
And he immediately blamed his son's football career and injuries for these tragic events.
"I can say he’s a good kid. He was a good kid," Alonzo Adams said. "I think the football messed him up. I don’t think he ever did anybody any harm."
He also said, per the AP, "He didn’t talk much and he didn’t bother nobody."
Adams's agent, Scott Casterline, confirmed that Adams "struggled away from the game" and that he had often isolated himself, both during and after his career. He also said that his actions were entirely out of character and "He had to not be in his right mind, obviously."
Adams was a seventh-round draft pick for the 49ers in the 2010 season, and proceeded to bounce around to five other teams before finishing his career in 2015 with the Atlanta Falcons. The AP notes that while playing for the Raiders in 2012, he suffered two concussions over three games — and experts are already wondering whether his family will allow his brain to be examined for traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated concussions, and identified in recent decades in multiple football players, some of whom have taken their own lives. The condition can be diagnosed posthumously, as the New York Times notes. Symptoms of CTE include impulsive behavior and emotional instability, in addition to loss of cognition, depression, and memory loss, but Adams had not reportedly been previously diagnosed.
A woman who lives across the street from Adams and his mother, Allison Hope, told the AP that police arrived and began negotiating with Adams to come out and surrender around 9 p.m. Wednesday. She listened as authorities promised over a loudspeaker to keep his disabled mother safe, and as a robot was sent into the home to scan it.
"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," Hope said.
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