Family Research Council shooting leaves security guard wounded
Updated: August 16, 2012 - 10:50 pm
An employee who was wounded in the Family Research Council shooting and who is being hailed as a hero tells ABC7 that he was simply where he needed to be and isn’t comfortable with being called a hero.
Leonardo "Leo" Johnson, 46, was shot in the left arm Wednesday afternoon at the Family Research Council offices near Chinatown. The Family Research Council is a conservative lobbying organization whose president supports, among other issues, Chick-fil-A’s public stand against same-sex marriage.
"I am not real comfortable with the hero thing, I mean, I was doing my job,” Johnson says.
The alleged shooter, Floyd Corkins, reportedly said he opposed the organization's politics and had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his bag, federal authorities said Thursday.
Clad in a white jumpsuit and showing little emotion, Corkins, 28, was charged in federal court with assault with intent to kill and bringing firearms across the state. He told a judge that he only had $300 to his name and was assigned a public defender.
Corkins is currently being held without bond and faces a detention hearing next Friday. A mental evaluation is also being ordered.
In an interview via telephone, Johnson says Corkins told him before the shooting that he was at the Family Research Council, at 801 G Street NW, about a block west of the Verizon Center, to interview for an internship.
He says says Corkins shot him without warning. Johnson then tackled Corkins as soon as he saw a gun and didn’t realize he had been shot in the arm.
"I didn't feel any pain. I felt my arm snap back so I knew I was hit but I didn't feel any pain," he says.
Johnson, the father of a 24-year-old daughter, said Corkins told him it wasn't about him - it was about the group’s policies - after he wrestled him to the ground.
"Although I didn't want to get shot, nobody wants to get shot, I feel that god put me in a position to be there at that time,” Johnson says.
Authorities later stated that Corkins said, "I don't like your politics."
"I am proud of him, very proud of him." FRC president Tony Perkins said. He visited Johnson in the hospital and told him that he was a hero.
"He said, 'This hero business is hard work,'" Perkins said during an appearance Wednesday morning on American Family Radio.
Perkins added that the shooting would not deter his organization from its mission. "We're not going anywhere. We're not backing up, we're not shutting up. We have been called to speak the truth," Perkins said. "We will not be intimidated. We will not be silenced."
Perkins on Thursday said "reckless rhetoric" from organizations that disagree with his group's opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage was to blame for the shooting.
"Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy," Perkins said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and litigates hate groups, labeled the FRC as a hate group in 2010 for what it called the group's anti-gay stance.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC, called Perkins' accusation "outrageous." He said the council earned the designation for spreading false propaganda about the gay community, not for its opposition to same-sex marriage.
"The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse - claims that are provably false," he said in a statement. "It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people."
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, which is in Northwest Washington. He usually staffed the center's front desk on Saturdays, and his most recent shift was about two weeks ago.
"He always struck me as a kind, gentle and unassuming young man. I'm very surprised that he could be involved in something like this," Mariner said.
Though authorities did not publicly reveal a motive, advocacy groups across the ideological spectrum condemned the violence, with some casting it as a hate crime.
"Today's attack is the clearest sign we've seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as 'hateful' must end," Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president, who was traveling in Iowa Wednesday, was informed of the shooting shortly after 1 p.m.
"The president expressed his concern for the individual injured in the shooting and his strong belief that this type of violence has no place in our society," Carney said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a statement that he was appalled.
"There is no place for such violence in our society," he said. "My prayers go out to the wounded security guard and his family, as well as all the people at the Family Research Council whose sense of security has been shattered by today's horrific events."
FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire said during a press conference that the injured security guard went "above and beyond" and hailed him as a hero.
The Associated Press identifies the FRC as a "conservative Christian lobbying group." On its website, the group says it advocates "faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion."
Many consider the FRC to be one of the most powerful religious right lobbying groups in the country and supporters see it as a bedrock of conservative, family principles.
The group boasts of its widespread influence in politics and just this week expressed its excitement to have vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and possibly Mitt Romney as well, speak at its upcoming Values Voter Summit in D.C.
The Family Research Council advocates conservative positions on social issues and strongly opposes gay marriage and abortion.
Perkins was an outspoken defender of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy's public stand against same-sex marriage, which made the fast-food chain a flashpoint in the nation's culture wars. The Cathy family foundation has funded the Family Research Council.
"He's taking a bold stand," Perkins said after Cathy's comments were reported. "Chick-fil-A is a Bible-based, Christian-based business who treats their employees well. 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."
Chick-fil-A also released this statement on the incident: “Chick-fil-A has not been contacted by the authorities in relation to the incident at Family Research Council headquarters yesterday. Because it is a police matter and we do not yet know the facts, we would prefer not to speculate on the issue. Our thoughts are with the security guard who was injured in the incident and his family.”
David Mariner, the executive director of the LGBT organization, released a statement regarding Wednesday's shooting:
"I was shocked to hear that someone who has volunteered with the DC Center could be the cause of such a tragic act of violence. No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible. We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim and our thoughts are with him and his family."
Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy also issued the following statement:
"We don’t yet know the details of today’s shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council, but our thoughts and prayers are with the injured security guard and his colleagues at FRC. What we do know is that these all too frequent shootings must stop. Whatever our disagreements, be they substantive policy arguments, misguided bigotry, or petty misunderstandings, guns cannot be the answer. Rather than disrespecting people because they hold ideas with which we disagree and turning on them with violence, we must find our way back to civility. Otherwise, as a nation, we will lose our democracy and our moral compass."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.