Conservative group blames shooting on "reckless rhetoric"
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins speaks during a news conference to discuss Wednesday's shooting, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Washington. / AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - The president of a conservative group blamed "reckless rhetoric" from organizations who disagreed with its opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage for a shooting that led one guard wounded.
At a press conference Thursday, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins made the comments a day after Floyd Lee Corkins, II, allegedly opened fire inside the lobby for the influential Christian organization's D.C. headquarters.
"Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organization hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy," Perkins said, referring how the law center, which tracks and litigates hate groups, labeled the FRC as a hate group in 2010 because of what it called its anti-gay stance.
The Southern Poverty Law Center called Perkins' claim "outrageous."
The SPLC "deplores all violence, and our thoughts are with the wounded victim, Leo Johnson, his family and others who lived through the attack," Senior Fellow Mark Potok said in a statement, adding: "Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC's criticisms of the FRC and the FRC's criticisms of LGBT people."
Corkins, a 28-year-old Virginia man who volunteered at a gay community center, arrived with a backpack full of Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a box of ammunition when he said "I don't like your politics," pulled out a handgun from his backpack and shot a security guard Wednesday, authorities revealed.
It was not immediately clear what he planned to do with the sandwiches. The Family Research Council had recently defended Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy for his opposition to gay marriage.
The guard was shot in the arm but was able to help wrestle the gun away and restrain the shooter, police said. Corkins is being held without bond.
Corkins had been volunteering for about the past six months at The DC Center for the LGBT Community, said David Mariner, executive director of the community center, in Northwest Washington. He usually staffed the center's front desk on Saturdays, and his most recent shift was about two weeks ago.
Corkins, who lives with his parents in Herndon, Va., was charged with assault with intent to kill and bringing firearms across state and was ordered held pending a hearing next week. He told the judge he had only $300 in his account and was appointed a public defender. He was otherwise silent during the hearing and stared ahead impassively.
The shooting was rebuked by President Barack Obama and Republican president candidate Mitt Romney, but also gay and lesbian advocacy groups and Christian organizations. One, the National Organization for Marriage, said it was time to stop labeling organizations that oppose same-sex marriage as hateful.
The FRCstrongly opposes gay marriage and abortion and says it advocates "faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion." The conservative group maintains a powerful lobbying presence, testifying before Congress and reviewing legislation.
Corkins' parents told FBI agents that he has "strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner," the complaint says.
The assault charge carries up to 30 years in prison and the weapons charge has a 10-year maximum sentence.
Authorities believe Corkins parked his car at a northern Virginia Metro station and used public transportation to get downtown. An open black box resembling a gun box was found on the car's passenger seat, the affidavit says. Corkins used a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol that was legally bought and owned, said Richard Marianos, special agent in charge of the ATF's Washington field office.
The guard, Leonardo "Leo" Johnson, 46, was resting comfortably at a hospital Thursday morning. His mother, Virginia Johnson, said she had not been to visit him but had spoken to him by phone.
"He said he feels very well," she told The Associated Press in a brief interview. "I am proud of him, very proud of him."
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