ROCK HILL, South Carolina – A former NFL player shot and killed five people, including a beloved doctor and his two young grandchildren, before killing himself in a quiet South Carolina neighborhood, police said.
Phillip Adams, a 32-year-old who played as a cornerback for teams including the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his family’s home down the street after the massacre, the York County Sheriff’s Office said.
“There’s nothing about this right now that makes sense to any of us and that’s why we’re working so hard to try to get more information,” York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. “Numerous investigators are seeking those answers and can hopefully provide some why to the family.”
The incident was the latest mass shooting to rock the nation in recent weeks, including 10 people slain in Boulder, Colorado, eight in the Atlanta area and four in Orange, California.
The victims were identified as: Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, and their grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5. James Lewis, 38, was found dead outside. Lewis was working at the home at the time for a company that specializes in air conditioning, roof and heating repair, police said.
The 911 calls started around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. The first appeared to come from a supervisor for the repair company, who said one of his employees called him screaming that he’d been shot. A second employee wasn’t moving, the man told 911 operators in a call played by authorities during a news conference.
“He’s screaming, ‘I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot,'” the man told a 911 operator. “One is unresponsive, another is talking slurred and he can’t talk.”
A second man who was mowing his grass heard the shots and called 911.
“I was cutting grass out in the yard and I heard some shots. About 20,” said an 80-year-old neighbor in the 911 call. “I saw one person laying on the ground.”
Tolson said officers found the two repairmen in the yard of the home. Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene. Another employee, Robert Shook, was taken to the hospital where he is in critical condition. Both worked for GSM Services in York County.
As police searched the Lesslies’ home, which is up a driveway from an arched stone gate and not visible from the road, they found Dr. Lesslie, his wife and their two grandchildren together in a room in the back of the home. All were dead, Tolson said.
Tolson said there was evidence at the scene that tied Adams to the killings but did not elaborate. He said authorities were able to contact his family and found Adams lived nearby. Some neighbors were evacuated as law enforcers searched for the suspect with police dogs.
Allison Hope, who lives across from the Adams’ 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 their driveway and law enforcement quickly surrounded the property.
Read more:What we know about Phillip Adams
She said law enforcers 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.
“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.
Adams’ parents were evacuated from the home as police surrounded the house and attempted to have him surrender. No shots were heard from the home, Tolson said, but police later found Adams dead inside of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Two weapons were recovered: a 9mm handgun and a .45 caliber handgun. Tolson said authorities do not have any information that would suggest the weapons were obtained illegally.
Police were working Thursday to determine a motive but haven’t been able to make sense of the violence, Tolson said, adding authorities do not have evidence Adams had been treated by the doctor, nor did they have any information about any medications used by the suspect or anything about injuries he may have suffered while playing football.
Tolson said Lesslie was a model citizen in the community, someone everyone knew.
“Dr. Lesslie was a pillar in this community with what he’s been able to give back,” he said. “He was a long-time doctor who treated me in the past. He treated everyone with respect.”
Lesslie and his wife have four children and eight grandchildren, according to a website bio.
Lesslie practiced in the area since 1981. He worked in emergency rooms for decades, including as medical director of the emergency department at Rock Hill General Hospital for almost 15 years, according to the bio. He founded two urgent care centers in the area and was also an author and columnist.
Lesslie’s 2008 book, “Angels in the ER,” told the stories of ER patients and staff, and for seven years, Lesslie wrote a weekly medical column for the Charlotte Observer.
“It doesn’t happen here,” said Trent Faris, a York County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “It’s one of those strange things that a lot of people are going to have a hard time understanding.”
Adams spent six seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons, before his career playing as a cornerback ended in 2015.
As a rookie in 2010, Adams suffered a severe ankle injury that required surgery, and later, in 2012, he had two concussions in a three-game period.
Adams’ father told a Charlotte television station that he blamed football for problems that may have led his son to commit Wednesday’s violence.
“I can say he’s a good kid,” Alonzo Adams told WCNC-TV. “I think the football messed him up.”
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.
“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,” Casterline said. “Seeing Philip shoot two kids, it’s not him. I can’t fathom it. It’s devastating for the victims and the families.”
More than a dozen news vehicles and TV trucks lined the side of Marshall Road outside the Adams family’s home, where Adams was found dead. It’s just a few houses down from the Lesslies’ home, which sits on a heavily wooded property surrounded by a black fence.
Contributing: The Associated Press