‘Devastated and confused’: Family of Phillip Adams speaks out after SC mass shooting

Former NFL player Phillip Adams killed multiple people, including a prominent doctor, before fatally shooting himself on April 7, 2021. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/TNS)
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Tobie Nell Perkins, Andrew Dys, Alaina Getzenberg
·3 min read
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The family of Phillip Adams, the man identified by law enforcement officials as the gunman in Wednesday’s mass shooting in York County, S.C., issued a statement Friday evening to The Herald.

‘There has to be some catalyst’

This is the written statement issued to The Herald by Adams’ brother, Ryan Adams, sister, Lauren Adams, father Alonzo Adams, and mother, Phyllis Adams.

“We send our heartfelt condolences to the Lesslie family, the Lewis family, and the Shook family for the horror they’ve suffered and have been praying for them as we navigate our own grief and confusion. The Phillip we know is not a man that is capable of the atrocities he committed on Wednesday. As the family, we are devastated and confused.

“We have more questions than answers at this point. We don’t know if football played a role in this drastic chance, but we do know there has to be some catalyst. We remember Phillip for who he has been: a compassionate son, a playful father, and a man that cared deeply about his community. We hate that this happened. We hate that his actions stole away precious members of a family. We are confused and we look to God for strength as we search for understanding. To the community, we are grateful for the outpouring of love and support we have received from all of you that knew Phillip.”

Family members all are natives of Rock Hill and Phyllis Adams was an educator in Rock Hill for longer than 10 years, The Herald previously reported.

The shooting

Adams is said to be the gunman in the killing of a prominent Rock Hill doctor and his wife, two of their grandchildren, and a worker who was at the doctor’s home outside Rock Hill, police and coroner officials said.

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast identified the victims found dead in the house as: Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70; his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69; Adah Lesslie, 9; and Noah Lesslie, 5. James Lewis, 38, an air conditioning technician with GSM Services of Gastonia, NC, was killed outside the house. Robert Shook, another technician, was injured and remains in serious condition, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

After a lengthy manhunt, Adams killed himself inside his family’s home down the street from the site of the shooting, Tolson said.

Adams brain will be tested for CTE

Adams was an ex-NFL player who played for the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets in a six-year career that began in 2010.

The motive of the crime is not known at this time, according to Tolson.

Adams will have his brain tested for CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the York County coroner said. CTE is defined by the Boston University CTE Center as “a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain” injury.

This is the first CTE test ordered by the York County coroner in at least 13 years, Gast said Friday.