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Guard shot at Family Research Council headquarters

A gunman carrying Chick-fil-A 'materials' wounded a security guard at the headquarters of the conservative Family Research Council in Washington, authorities say.

August 16, 2012|By Brian Bennett and Laura J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
  • Investigators gather evidence after a security guard was shot at the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington. The guard was hospitalized in stable condition, and a suspect was arrested.
Investigators gather evidence after a security guard was shot at the headquarters… (Chip Somodevilla, Getty…)

WASHINGTON — A man opened fire inside a conservative Christian lobbying group's headquarters Wednesday, wounding a security guard, and authorities said the gunman was carrying extra ammunition and information related toChick-fil-A, which has become a public symbol of opposition to gay marriage.

The incident began about 10:45 a.m., officials said, when the man walked into the lobby of the Family Research Council and muttered something. When a security guard confronted him, the man opened fire with a 9-millimeter pistol and hit the guard in the arm, a senior law enforcement official told The Times. Several people helped the guard wrestle the gunman to the ground and disarm him.

When the FBI took the suspect into custody, he hadChick-fil-A "materials" and ammunition in his backpack, the senior law enforcement official said. The official refused to say whether theChick-fil-A material was a flier, a menu, a sandwich wrapper or something else.

Gay rights groups have called for a boycott ofChick-fil-Abecause its chief executive took a public stance against gay marriage, and the Family Research Council has supported Chick-fil-A.

The law enforcement official refused to speculate on whether the backpack's contents could have anything to do with the dispute. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

The Associated Press reported that the suspect was Floyd Corkins II, 28, of Herndon, Va. Messages left at Corkins' home were not immediately returned. The AP also reported that Corkins had volunteered for a local gay rights group.

The Family Research Council is a Christian lobbying organization that condemns abortion and gay marriage and considers homosexuality a sin.

The fast-food chain became a symbol last month when its president, Dan Cathy, was asked during an interview with the Baptist Press whether he opposed gay marriage. His response: "Guilty as charged."

That sparked demonstrations at Chick-fil-A restaurants by opponents and supporters of gay marriage.

"Chick-fil-A is a Bible-based, Christian-based business who treats their employees well," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said at the time. "They have been attacked in the past about their stand. But they refuse to budge on this matter, and I commend them for what they are doing."

The chain's restaurants are closed on Sundays, and employees are trained to focus on "values rooted in the Bible." The company itself does not have a public position on gay marriage.

"Going forward," a statement on the Chick-fil-A website says, "our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."

Perkins extended the group's well wishes to the security guard, whom the Washington Post identified as Leo Johnson.

"Our first concern is with our colleague who was shot today," Perkins said. "Our concern is for him and his family."

The guard was hospitalized in stable condition, the Post said.

Investigators were interviewing the suspect and had not yet determined a motive, the senior official said.

Whether the shooting will be classified as a hate crime or domestic terrorism depends on what charges the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office file, FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire said.

Based on public databases, Corkins lives with his parents in a Herndon subdivision called Kingston Chase. A person who lives across the street said the neighborhood is peaceful and has a pool and a swim team for kids. The neighbor, who would not give her name, said the Corkins family kept to themselves.

Later in the day, Washington police cleared a two-block area around the council's headquarters in Chinatown after investigators found a suspicious package. Bomb squad officers from theBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosivesdetermined that it was not dangerous.

The shooting drew statements from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama.

"There is no place for such violence in our society," Romney said, adding that he would pray for council employees whose sense of security has been shattered.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama expressed concern for the security guard and said, "This type of violence has no place in our society."

brian.bennett@latimes.com

laura.nelson@latimes.com

Bennett reported from Washington and Nelson from Los Angeles.

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