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Suspect charged in shooting at Family Research Council headquarters

August 16, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson | This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
  • Investigators gather evidence after a security guard was shot in the arm at the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington.
Investigators gather evidence after a security guard was shot in the arm… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

The Virginia man accused of shooting a security guard at the headquarters of a conservative lobbying group after saying, "I don’t like your policies" carried a backpack that contained extra bullets and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, authorities said Thursday.

Floyd Lee Corkins, 28, was charged in federal court a day after police said he walked into the lobby of the Family Research Council building in Washington and shot the guard in the arm.

Corkins was charged with transporting firearms and ammunition across state lines and assault with the intent to kill while armed. The transportation charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years; the assault charge, 30 years.

[Updated, 12:58 p.m., Aug. 16: Corkins appeared in court Thursday afternoon. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay assigned him a public defender and ordered that he be held without bond until a detention hearing scheduled for Aug. 24. Prosecutors requested a mental evaluation.]

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

Corkins had volunteered at a gay community center in Washington, officials said, and his parents in Herndon, Va., told investigators that their son had "strong opinions" about those whose viewpoints on gay rights differed from his.

Corkins parked his car at the East Falls Church Metro station Wednesday morning and took the Metro to Chinatown, an FBI affidavit filed in court Thursday said. Investigators said they saw a black container that looked like a gun box on the front seat of his 2004 Dodge Neon.

Outside the Family Research Council headquarters building, Corkins spoke into the intercom and told a security guard that he was there to apply for an internship, council President Tony Perkins said in a Web-streamed interview.  

When the guard, Leo Johnson, 46, buzzed him in, Corkins walked inside and said, "I don't like your policies," the FBI affidavit said. Corkins then reached into his backpack, pulled out a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun and opened fire, hitting Johnson in the arm, police said.

Johnson and a few others scuffled with the shooter and disarmed him, authorities said. A second security guard called 911.

Johnson came out of surgery Wednesday night and was resting in a local hospital. Perkins said he visited Johnson and told him that he was a hero.

"He thought about it for a minute and he said, 'You know, this hero business is hard work,'" Perkins told American Family Radio.

The backpack, investigators said, contained a box of 9-millimeter ammunition and 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, the fast-food restaurant chain that last month became a symbol of the national debate over gay marriage.

The Family Research Council verbally supported Chick-fil-A when the fast-food chain's president, Dan Cathy, said in an interview that he did not condone marriage between gays and lesbians.  

"Chick-fil-A is a Bible-based, Christian-based business who treats their employees well,” 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 shooting drew response from presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama, both of whom said there was no place for such violence in American society.

The council remains focused on its mission, Perkins said.

"We're not going anywhere. We're not backing up. We're not shutting up. We know we have been called to speak the truth," he said. " ... We will not be intimidated. We will not be silenced."

Brian Bennett in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com

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