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Family Research Council shooter pleads guilty

A Herndon, Va., man arrested last August for shooting an unarmed security guard in the lobby of the anti-gay Family Research Council headquarters in downtown Washington pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three felony charges, including the charge of committing an act of terrorism while armed.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, who has been held in jail since his arrest last August, signed a charging document before appearing in court on Wednesday confirming that he intended to commit a mass killing at the FRC building, a federal prosecutor said in court.

“[C]orkins targeted the Family Research Council because of its political views, including its advocacy against recognition of gay marriage,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“He entered the building with the intention of shooting and killing as many employees of the organization as he could,” the statement says.

The wounded security guard has been credited by D.C. police and the FBI with saving the lives of FRC employees working on the building’s upper floors by wrestling Corkins to the floor and taking away the semi-automatic handgun Corkins wielded while attempting to gain access to the elevator.

The guard suffered a gunshot wound to the arm and has undergone several rounds of surgery in connection with the injury.

In addition to the terrorism charge, Corkins pleaded guilty to charges of assault with intent to kill while armed and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. He faces a potential maximum sentence of 70 years in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 29.

Corkins, who worked for a short time as a volunteer at D.C.’s LGBT Community Center in 2011, has not disclosed his sexual orientation.

In new information released this week, the U.S. Attorney’s office said police and FBI agents investigating the case found a handwritten list on Corkins’ possession containing the names of the Family Research Council and “three other organizations that openly identify themselves as having socially conservative agenda.” The U.S. Attorney’s office didn’t identify the other organizations, saying only that Corkins intended to target them had he succeeded in his planned shooting at the FRC.

Prosecutors also disclosed for the first time that Corkins returned to a gun store in Virginia where he purchased the gun on the night before he arrived at the FRC building and engaged in shooting practice.

Authorities previously disclosed that they had discovered in Corkins’ backpack a box of 50 rounds of 9 mm ammunition and 15 individually wrapped sandwiches he bought the previous day from Chik-fil-A.

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II was accused of shooting a security guard inside the Family Research Council’s headquarters building in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In the statement released on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s office disclosed that Corkins told FBI agents interviewing him after his arrest that he planned to “smother the Chick-fil-A sandwiches” into the faces of the FRC employees he intended to shoot.

In a separate court filing last week, prosecutors disclosed that they searched of Corkins’ family computer at the Herndon home where he lived with his parents. The computer search showed that he apparently obtained the list of socially conservative groups he planned to target, including the FRC, from the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

SPLC has listed FRC as a hate group based, among other things, on its portrayal of homosexuality and gay people as being associated with pedophilia.

In a statement released on Wednesday, FRC President Tony Perkins reiterated his earlier assertion that Southern Poverty Law Center was responsible for creating a climate that led to someone like Corkins seeking to commit violence.

“[I] stated that while Corkins was responsible for the shooting, he had been given a license to perpetrate this act of violence by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center which has systematically and recklessly labeled every organization with which they disagree as a ‘hate group,’” Perkins said.

Southern Poverty Law Center officials have denounced Perkins for misrepresenting their position, saying they never label an organization as a hate group based on political views or public policy positions. SPLC officials have said they list FRC as a hate group for what they say are its false and defamatory claims linking homosexuality and LGBT people to pedophilia.

07
Feb
2013

Gov’t seeks 45-year prison term for FRC shooter

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins — who pled guilty to three felony charges in February — volunteered at D.C.’s LGBT community center. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

UPDATE:

At a court status hearing on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Roberts rescheduled Corkins’ sentencing hearing for July 15. He also reaffirmed his denial of bail for Corkins, who has been in jail since the time of his arrest last August.

 

Hours before his arrest last August for shooting a security guard in the arm in the lobby of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters in downtown Washington, Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, says he told his parents he needed to use their car to drive to the D.C. LGBT Community Center, where he said he worked as a volunteer.

According to a 22-page transcript of an FBI interview of Corkins on the day of his arrest on Aug. 15, 2012 — which prosecutors released in a court filing last week — Corkins told FBI agents that instead of going to the LGBT Center he drove the family car to the East Falls Church Metro station.

From there he said he took the Metro to the Gallery Place station and walked to the FRC building at 801 G St., N.W., with the intention of killing as many people as possible.

“I wanted to kill the people in the building and smear a Chicken-fil-A sandwich on their face,” the FBI transcript quotes Corkins as saying.

Police and prosecutors said the heroic action by the unarmed security guard, who wrestled Corkins to the floor and took away the gun after being shot in the arm, prevented Corkins from reaching the upper floors of the FRC building where at least 50 employees were working at their desks.

Corkins pleaded guilty in February to three felony charges, including committing an act of terrorism while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 70 years in prison.

He had been scheduled to be sentenced Monday, April 29. But U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts agreed on April 22 to a request by Corkins’ attorney to postpone the sentencing to give the attorney, David W. Bos, more time to review the status of Corkins’ mental health.

Citing information not previously disclosed, Bos stated in a motion seeking the postponement that Corkins had been the subject of a “72-hour civil commitment in February 2012, which led to the mental health treatment the defendant was receiving at the time he committed the instant offense.”

In his interview with the FBI agents, Corkins hedged about whether he was committed or entered a treatment facility voluntarily, but said the treatment took place during a time when he was living in San Francisco.

“… I went to seek help and I got charged with a 51-50,” he said.

“What’s a 51-50?” one of the FBI agents asked him.

“It’s if they think you are a danger to yourself or to others,” Corkins replied.

Corkins said he left San Francisco and moved back to his parents’ home in Herndon around April of 2012.

The fact that he purchased a handgun and large quantities of ammunition from a Virginia gun store in August just six months after being committed for a mental health condition linked to possible danger to others comes at a time when President Obama and gun control opponents continue to argue over legislation aimed at requiring stricter background checks for gun purchasers.

In what appears to be a calm, matter-of-fact discussion, Corkins told two FBI agents who conducted the interview that he disagreed with the FRC’s anti-gay positions, including its statement of support for the Chick-fil-A restaurant president, who said he opposes same-sex marriage.

Corkins said in the interview that he bought 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches one day earlier, the same day he practiced shooting his recently purchased revolver at a gun range in Chantilly, Va. He said he carried the gun, three magazines with 15 rounds of ammunition each, and the sandwiches in the backpack he brought to the FRC building.

“I consider myself a political activist,” he told the FBI agents. “[S]o I was going to use that as kind of a statement,” he said of his plans to smear the sandwiches in the faces of the people he planned to shoot.

Corkins mentioned his affiliation with the LGBT Center at the beginning of his FBI interrogation.

“Were you home when you got up in the morning today?” one of the agents asked Corkins.

“Yeah, I was at home,” he replied.

“Just walk us through when you got up,” the transcript quotes the agent as saying.

“Uh, let’s see. I got up in the morning,” Corkins replied. “I told my parents, I volunteer at the D.C. Center, the LGBT center. So I told my parents I was going down there today and that I needed the car,” he told the FBI agents.

“The night before I had loaded three magazines full of bullets, I planned on going down to the [FRC] building … ,” Corkins told the agents.

At the time of the FRC shooting, officials with the D.C. LGBT Center said Corkins volunteered there as a front desk clerk in 2011. Center officials joined local and national LGBT leaders in condemning Corkins’ actions, saying they support his prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

Center officials said at the time that Corkins showed no signs that he could be capable of committing an act of violence but gave no further details of Corkins’ relationship with the Center other than that he was a part-time volunteer.

D.C. Center Executive Director David Mariner told the Blade early Monday that the Center would have no further comment on the matter other than the statement Mariner issued last August at the time of the FRC shooting incident.

“I was shocked to hear that someone who has volunteered with the D.C. Center could be the cause of such a tragic act of violence,” Mariner said in that statement. “No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible. We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting the case, submitted the FBI interview transcript as one of several exhibits attached to a 32-page sentencing memorandum filed in court on April 19.

The U.S. Attorney’s office also submitted as an exhibit a full video of the FBI interview with Corkins. The video became part of the public court record and is available for viewing and copying on the federal court system’s website.

The Family Research Council promptly posted an excerpt of the video on its own website that shows Corkins telling the FBI agents he selected the FRC as a target after seeing it listed as a “hate group” on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national civil rights organization.

In an April 25 press release, FRC President Tony Perkins called the SPLC’s decision to list FRC as a hate group a “reckless labeling [that] has led to devastating consequences.”

Added Perkins, “Because of its ‘hate group’ labeling, a deadly terrorist had a guide map to FRC and other organizations. Our team is still dealing with the fallout of the attack that was intended to have a chilling effect on organizations that are simply fighting for their values.”

SPLC has said it lists FRC as a hate group based, among other things, on what it says are FRC’s false and defamatory claims linking homosexuality and LGBT people to pedophilia. SPLC officials have criticized Perkins for misrepresenting their position, saying they never label an organization as a hate group based on its political views or public policy positions.

The sentencing memorandum outlines the government’s reasons for asking Judge Roberts to sentence Corkins to 45 years in prison.

“The defendant, the lone gunman and perpetrator of this attempted massacre, had the malicious intent and engaged in the requisite planning and effort necessary to achieve his purpose,” the memo says. “Fortunately, he was thwarted by the heroic intervening actions of Leonardo Johnson, a building manager/security guard who was seriously injured as a result.”

Johnson, who was unarmed, is credited with tackling Corkins seconds after Corkins pulled out a 9mm handgun from a backpack he was carrying and pointing it at Johnson. Johnson sustained a gunshot wound to the arm as he wrestled Corkins to the floor of the lobby of the FRC building and took possession of the gun.

D.C. police arrived on the scene minutes later and arrested Corkins. The FBI also became involved in the case.

D.C. police and the FBI said Corkins told authorities that had he gotten past Johnson, he would have taken the elevator to the building’s upper floors and opened fire on the 50 or more FRC employees working that day.

“The defendant’s crimes are serious and warrant severe sentences – not only to punish the defendant for his actions, but to keep the community safe from him and deter other would-be mass murderers and domestic terrorists from following suit,” the sentencing memo says.

“Accordingly, the government respectfully requests that the Court sentence the defendant to a combined term of imprisonment of 45 years,” the memo says.

A new sentencing date was expected to be announced at the status hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday.

In his motion seeking the postponement of the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Bos said the state of Corkins’ mental health should be taken into consideration in the sentencing process.

“While counsel believes the defendant’s mental health history does not bear on the defendant’s competency to proceed in this matter, counsel believes the defendant’s mental health history is relevant to the appropriate sentence in this case.”

29
Apr
2013

Year in review: LGBT Center volunteer charged in shooting

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II was accused of shooting a security guard inside the Family Research Council’s headquarters building in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police and the FBI have yet to disclose whether they uncovered a motive in the Aug. 15 non-fatal shooting of a security guard in the lobby of the anti-gay Family Research Council’s headquarters in downtown Washington.

Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, a former part-time volunteer for D.C.’s LGBT community center, has pleaded not guilty to a 10-count grand jury indictment in connection with the shooting, including the charge of committing an act of terrorism while armed.

According to the indictment and other charging documents, Corkins allegedly shot the security guard in the arm seconds after he entered the FRC building at 801 G Street, N.W., and told the guard, Leo Johnson, “I don’t like your politics.”

D.C. police and officials with the FBI said they discovered 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in a backpack Corkins brought to the FRC building. They said the finding led them to believe Corkins may have planned a mass killing if Johnson had not prevented him from gaining access to the FRC offices on the building’s upper floors.

Some have speculated that Corkins targeted the FRC because of its anti-gay positions and its statements denouncing gay activists for organizing a boycott of the Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant chain because its owner has contributed money to anti-gay groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

But authorities have yet to disclose whether Corkins is gay or whether they determined his motive for the shooting.

Officials with the D.C. Center said they knew little about Corkins other than he volunteered to staff the Center’s front desk on weekends for a period of a few months. They said there were no signs of any problems associated with his work.

Center officials joined local and national LGBT leaders in condemning the shooting. Corkins has been held in jail since the time of his arrest on the day of the shooting. A pre-trial status conference in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Jan. 8.

26
Dec
2012