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A motive behind the murder of five people in South Carolina, including a prominent doctor, remained scant Thursday as authorities continued their investigation into suspect Phillip Adams – who later turned the gun on himself – and played two 911 calls.
York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said at an afternoon news conference that investigators were still on the hunt for a motive. He said there was no indication there was a doctor-patient relationship between Adams and Dr. Robert Lesslie when the former football player broke into the man’s home, allegedly killing the doctor, his wife, their grandkids and an air-conditioning tech.
Another wounded victim was in critical condition, Tolson said.
“We are working hard to provide some answers. Obviously, one answer is why? That is a question we are probing as we speak with numerous investigators,” Tolson said. “We hope to be able to get to those answers and provide some why to the family, most importantly.”
Authorities played two 911 calls for the media, as well. Tolson said the calls came in around 4:44 p.m. Wednesday.
Adams was identified as the gunman in Wednesday’s massacre.
The first caller said he got a call from one technician at the Rock Hill home “screaming” he had been shot and another person was not responsive.
“He just kept saying, ‘I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot, call 911. Please call 911.’ And that’s all he keeps saying,” the first caller said.
The second caller told the 911 dispatcher that four people had been shot. The person said he was cutting grass in his yard when he heard shots fired. He said he heard about 20 shots go off and it sounded like it was automatic. Tolson said police couldn’t substantiate the number of shots fired.
Tolson said he knew Lesslie personally.
“Dr. Lesslie was a pillar in this community with what he was able to give back to this community. He was a longtime doctor. He had treated me in the past at his clinic,” Tolson said. “He was very involved in law enforcement and provided space for nurses to do sexual assault exams for sexual assault victims.
“I would not want to water down anything Dr. Lesslie did or what he meant to this community. He knew everyone. He treated everyone with respect.”
Adams, 32, last played in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. He was a seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. He then played for the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. Adams suffered multiple injuries, including concussions and a broken ankle, during his NFL career.
In addition to Dr. Lesslie, 70, the shooting victims were identified as his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69; their two grandchildren, and James Lewis, 39, who was working at the home when he was struck by gunfire, the sheriff’s office said. Lewis was found dead outside the home.
Lesslie was a prominent doctor in the Rock Hill, SC, community.
((John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer via AP))
The grandchildren were ages 5 and 9, according to the York County Coroner’s Office.
York County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris on Wednesday called Dr. Lesslie “a staple” in Rock Hill for years.
The coroner’s office said they responded to Adams’ home and he was found dead by police after a standoff. Officials said the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Rock Hill is located 25 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina.