Court hears gunman targeted gay-marriage opponents
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Virginia man pleaded guilty Wednesday to wounding a security guard at the Washington headquarters of a conservative Christian lobbying group, a shooting that made headlines in part because the man was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
Floyd Corkins II, 28, acknowledged in a plea agreement that he intended to kill as many people as possible during the August shooting at the Family Research Council. He also planned to target other organizations that oppose gay marriage if he wasn’t stopped.
Corkins intended to smear the sandwiches in the faces of his victims to make a statement about gay rights opponents, he acknowledged during a hearing Wednesday. Chick-fil-A was making headlines at the time because of its president’s stated opposition to gay marriage.
According to the plea agreement, he told FBI agents who interviewed him after the shooting that he wanted to use the sandwiches to “make a statement against the people who work in that building … and with their stance against gay rights and Chick-fil-A.”
Prosecutors said Wednesday that Corkins was allowed to enter the downtown Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council on Aug. 15 after he said he was interviewing for an internship. After approaching a security guard and being asked for identification, he took a pistol from a backpack he was carrying. He fired three shots, and one of them struck security guard Leonardo Johnson in the arm. But Johnson managed to wrestle away the gun, and police arrested Corkins.
Corkins acknowledged as part of his plea agreement that he had taken a number of steps to plan the shooting. He bought the pistol the week before and practiced firing it. He also visited the headquarters of the Family Research Council, and he purchased the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches the day before the shooting. The plea agreement said Corkins was filmed picking out the gun by a French television crew doing a piece on the ease with which firearms can be purchased in the United States.
Corkins also acknowledged that he considered making a bomb but didn’t have the patience to do it. In his pants pocket, police found a handwritten list of groups that also oppose gay marriage. Lawyers did not include the list of organizations in the plea agreement.
Corkins pleaded guilty to three charges: interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, assault with intent to kill while armed and act of terrorism while armed, a charge based on the shooting being intended to intimidate anyone who is associated with or supports the Family Research Council and other organizations that oppose gay marriage.
Sentencing guidelines recommend a maximum of ten years on the first count and up to 15 years on the two other counts. The judge in the case, Richard W. Roberts, set sentencing for April 29.
In a statement released after Corkins’ plea, the head of the Family Research Council blamed the shooting in part on the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled his organization a hate group.
In his plea agreement, Corkins acknowledged he identified the Council as “an anti-gay organization” by visiting Southern Poverty’s website. The head of the Council, Tony Perkins, called on the group to stop labeling his organization and others hate groups because of their stance on gay issues. A spokeswoman for the Alabama-based Law Center did not immediately return a telephone message.
Georgia-based Chick-fil-A did not immediately return a phone message.