ROCK HILL, S.C. — Robert Lesslie cherished enjoying the bagpipes. He cherished practising drugs, his neighborhood, his religion, his spouse, Barbara, and their large household. Barbara Lesslie cherished her husband, their church, main bible research, singing hymns and mentoring children with disabilities at Camp Pleasure. They every cherished their grandchildren, together with Adah and Noah, and had been happy with the heat the 2 children confirmed recurrently to others. Adah Lesslie cherished books, she cherished singing, handmade playing cards and hugs. Noah Lesslie cherished bodily comedy and horses, a lot in order that he ceaselessly requested if in the future he would be capable of experience a horse in heaven, notably Artax from The NeverEnding Story.
In his memorial service for the Lesslies final week, Rev. Dr. J. Barry Dagenhart stated it is very important keep in mind this stuff as we grieve, as a result of by grieving this manner, we make hope a residing factor. And, Dagenhart instructed the viewers, hope shall be notably essential as we wrestle, within the months and years to come back, with the query of why such a horrible factor occurred to them, despite the fact that it in the end will not change the truth of the tragedy.
On April 7, a former NFL soccer participant, Phillip Adams, emerged from the woods behind the Lesslies’ property in Rock Hill with two handguns — a .45-caliber and 9 mm — and opened hearth. He shot and killed Robert, 70, Barbara, 69, Adah, 9, and Noah, 5. He additionally shot and killed two air con repairmen, James Lewis and Robert Shook, each 38, working on the home earlier than Adams fled to a different location, the place police stated Adams shot and killed himself after a standoff. He was 32.
No identified motive exists, and the connection between Adams and the Lesslies, if even one existed previous to April 7, stays unknown as effectively. The police report was anticipated to shed new gentle on what occurred and why, however added few particulars when it was launched final Friday. A neighborhood through which the Lesslies had been beloved for his or her generosity, their charity and their connection to their church, stays shaken. Lesslie was the director of the emergency division at Piedmont Medical Middle, Rock Hill’s common hospital, for practically 15 years, and had based two pressing care clinics. Throughout his time there, he’d handled many individuals in Rock Hill, together with Adams’ personal father.
“They had been such peaceable, good folks,” stated Ralph Norman, a congressman who represents Rock Hill. “[Robert] handled everyone on the town in some unspecified time in the future. … His spouse and my spouse had been in a singing trio that went over and sang at completely different features, and we went snowboarding and had been in the identical church for a very long time. They had been a few of our greatest mates. That is simply horrific, unbelievable.”
Adams’ family and friends are additionally grieving, wrestling with recollections of the particular person they thought they knew, and a actuality of the monstrous acts he dedicated. “I simply can’t fathom it,” stated Kevin Smith, a three-time Tremendous Bowl-winning cornerback with the Cowboys who was a mentor and buddy to Adams throughout his profession. “I do not know what the scenario was, however I simply can’t think about him taking pictures children.”
Within the absence of solutions, individuals who knew Adams can not help however ponder the inevitable query: Was he affected by some type of psychological sickness, maybe set in movement by collisions and concussions throughout his soccer profession? His father, Alonzo, gave a short interview to Charlotte tv WCNC-TV after the taking pictures, indicating as a lot: “I can say he is child — he was child, and I believe the soccer messed him up.”
The household has made few public statements since however agreed as a part of the post-mortem that his mind be despatched to Boston College Persistent Traumatic Encephalopathy Middle for additional research. Adams’ sister, Lauren, declined to remark to ESPN till the CTE outcomes are again from BU. “Proper now, we’re simply attempting to grieve and wrap our heads round the whole lot,” she stated.
Even that effort probably will not present definitive solutions. Within the last research from BU’s CTE Center, researchers discovered CTE within the brains of 223 of 266 novice and professional soccer gamers that they studied. However there has by no means been a hyperlink established between CTE and violence.
This a lot is thought about Adams, although: The native standout had all the time been a quiet introvert who might be arduous to trace down. As soon as his soccer profession was over in 2015, he’d executed some volunteer teaching at a close-by highschool lately, and tried beginning up a well being meals store with a buddy. However prior to now 12 months to 18 months, relations had a more durable and more durable time discovering and connecting with him.
Adams’ longtime agent, Scott Casterline, stated he can not help however really feel a little bit haunted by a missed name the morning of the taking pictures, questioning if he might have executed one thing that will have prevented the scenario. There’s a combination of guilt and unhappiness in his voice when he talks. “Phillip’s dad had referred to as me and it went straight to voicemail,” Casterline stated. “I did not understand it. I assume it was proper earlier than all this occurred. His tone was regular. It was like ‘Hey Scott, this Alonzo, I am simply attempting to the touch base with you to speak a little bit bit about Phillip.’ And it wasn’t alarming or like, ‘Hey man, Phillip is in hassle.’ It was regular, as a result of Phillip was a loner. Even when he performed, he was actually personal. He was arduous to succeed in until he wished to speak to his mother and father, to me, to everyone.”
ADAMS’ PATH to the NFL was, for years, seen as one small a part of a soccer pipeline popping out of Rock Hill, a sleepy, bed room neighborhood 25 miles south of Charlotte that manages to provide an inordinate variety of proficient soccer gamers. Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore and Cordarrelle Patterson are amongst these the town has despatched to the NFL lately, inspiring one native sports activities editor to dub the 75,000-population city “Soccer Metropolis, USA,” a moniker that caught.
Adams wasn’t a star on the extent of Clowney, however he was well-known for his athletic prowess. He gained a state championship in soccer and in basketball at Rock Hill Excessive College, and earned a scholarship to South Carolina State. His classmates nicknamed him “Recent” as a result of he was all the time so sharply dressed and well-groomed. “His entire household is definitely very naturally gifted athletically,” stated Lawrence “Snoop” Brown, one among Adams’ highschool teammates. “His brother was an all-ACC wrestler. His sister performed volleyball and basketball. And Phillip was no completely different. All the time an excellent athlete. From the get-go, he has all the time been tremendous proficient.”
Casterline says Adams talked sparingly about his childhood in Rock Hill, however when he did, he often described it as a contented time in his life. His father, Alonzo, labored as a industrial truck driver who usually restricted his work to native routes so he would not must spend nights away from his household. Typically Phillip, the youngest of three children, would accompany him on journeys. His mom, Phyllis, labored for a few years as an educator within the Rock Hill faculty system till 2009, when she was concerned in a severe automobile accident that left her paralyzed. A neighborhood fundraiser introduced in additional than $15,000 for her after the accident.
Adams was in school on the time, and stated it was solely after he and his mom prayed collectively within the hospital that he determined to proceed enjoying soccer. She was to be a part of his motivation to make it to the NFL. “This simply makes you admire the folks in your life,” Adams instructed a reporter in 2010, discussing his mom’s accident. “It makes you … not fear about materials issues. It brings you nearer to God. That’s what it did for me. It helped me out in that facet. It made me work more durable. It could actually both change you for the worst or the most effective. Due to my household and the energy that I’ve, it modified me for the most effective.”
Adams was a standout cornerback and punt returner at South Carolina State, tying for the Mid-Japanese Athletic Convention lead in interceptions as a junior and incomes first-team all-conference honors as a senior in 2009. However an NFL profession was no certain factor. No South Carolina State participant had been drafted in a decade. A buddy put Adams in contact with Casterline previous to the NFL Draft, and the 2 clicked in a short dialog over the telephone. Adams moved to Dallas to coach, hoping to enhance his draft inventory, primarily by working with Smith, who was a key member of the Dallas dynasty. “He was only a younger, quiet child, and he wished all the knowledge,” Smith stated. “I used to get on him a little bit bit. He overworked. It was data overload. He studied it, he dreamed it. It was a protracted shot coming from South Carolina State, however he had the expertise. I instructed him, ‘Man, you bought one thing.'”
It wasn’t lengthy earlier than Adams and Casterline constructed a bond that went past an expert relationship. “Phillip was like a little bit brother to me,” Casterline stated. “Initially, I put him up in a resort, however then I stated, ‘Why do not you come over to my home?’ I’ve received an enormous home. He simply began staying with me. We might go eat and practice collectively. We even took jiu-jitsu collectively as a result of we took a category and it might be me versus him as a result of we had been each learners. We had been each very aggressive. Over time, we simply turned actually good mates. I want I might have foreseen the longer term. … I simply can’t think about him taking pictures anyone, particularly two children. That is simply not in his nature.”
Adams was drafted by the 49ers within the seventh spherical of the 2010 draft, however he managed to make the roster due to a relentless work ethic and willingness to play particular groups. However late within the 12 months, in a recreation in opposition to the Rams, Adams suffered a compound ankle fracture on the sphere, an harm that required emergency surgical procedure and screws inserted into his leg, and it turned his soccer profession right into a nomadic existence. For the remainder of his time within the NFL, he was a fringe roster participant, transferring from metropolis to metropolis, barely hanging on from one week to the subsequent with little to no job safety. Nonetheless, Adams did higher than most, scratching out a six-year profession that paid him upward of $3.6 million.
The Patriots signed him in 2011, however they in the end lower him thrice in the identical season. He spent two full seasons with the Raiders, even cracking the beginning lineup for 4 video games over two seasons, however that too got here to an unceremonious finish due to accidents. It was throughout his time with the Raiders that he suffered two concussions in a brief span. “I keep in mind one among them was actually dangerous,” Casterline stated.
Adams had one-year stints with the Jets and Falcons, however he might by no means transfer up from being thought-about a fringe NFL man. “That does so much to the psyche of a participant,” Casterline stated. “Each time he’d get launched, I would decide him up and inform him, ‘Hey, we’ll discover your home. Your time will come.’ However he stored bouncing round. I do know that pissed off him as a result of he was such a competitor. He wished to win and be nice.”
Smith says he’d journey to Atlanta a pair occasions a 12 months after Adams signed with the Falcons, largely simply to verify in together with his buddy, and would often stick with Adams for a weekend. What he noticed all the time perplexed him. “All he would wish to do is watch movie,” Smith stated. “That was it. He had movie of each NFL receiver he was going to face the subsequent 12 months, and he’d sit there watching that movie all day lengthy. I would inform him, ‘Phillip, you are overdoing it. You’ll be able to’t be figuring out thrice a day. You are going to destroy your physique. You need to protect your physique. The longer you are within the NFL, it is about preserving your physique and restoration.’ However he was a type of guys who was going to push it to the sting. He was all soccer.”
After Adams’ contract with the Falcons expired in 2015, the fireplace that burned inside him to hold on to an NFL profession appeared to wane. He moved again to Rock Hill and began volunteering as a coach at Nation Ford Excessive College in Fort Mill, SC, telling Casterline he felt like he was essential once more, that he was making a distinction. He instructed mates he was additionally attempting to be a gift father to his younger son, despite the fact that he and the boy’s mom had been not concerned.
Casterline received a name from the Colts throughout coaching camp in 2016, inquiring about Adams’ availability. They wished to signal him, however they wanted a solution instantly. A cornerback had been injured, they appreciated Adams’ expertise and wished him to fill in, however provided that Adams might be on a flight to Indianapolis that night time. Casterline could not attain Adams, which wasn’t uncommon. Finally, Adams’ father received in contact together with his daughter, and he or she tracked down her brother at his outdated highschool, placing him on the telephone with Casterline. “I stated, ‘OK, your sister goes to take you to the airport proper now, we’ll ship you garments,'” Casterline stated. “And he began hesitating. ‘I do not know,’ he stated. That is not like Phillip. However I believe he had clocked out of the expertise of being signed and lower so many occasions. It wears on a participant. He ended up going to the airport after I talked to him, however he received there late and missed the flight. That was it. The Colts moved on. They signed any individual else. I might inform he wasn’t actually into it anymore.”
ADAMS’ FRIENDS insist he wasn’t ashamed of the best way his NFL profession ended, however it additionally wasn’t a topic he appreciated discussing. When he determined to open a Rock Hill smoothie store in 2019, dubbing it “Recent Life,” he refused to make use of his previous NFL profession as a part of the advertising. He noticed meals as drugs, in response to Tynetta Moore, a long-time buddy who ran the enterprise for Adams. He wished to supply wholesome vegatables and fruits to a predominantly Black a part of city that did not also have a grocery retailer.
He had large concepts for the neighborhood that did not contain soccer. He talked of beginning a podcast about wellness, and a mentorship to show folks a commerce, like plumbing. His dream, he instructed Moore, was to develop his personal meals finally. He had visions of her working the shop whereas he spent his days driving a tractor. “He was simply eager to stay a really quiet life,” Moore stated. “He was not a flashy man within the first place. For those who carry up one thing in regards to the NFL, he was, ‘I do not wish to speak about that.’ It was like that was off limits to him.”
Adams’ ambitions, nevertheless, as soon as once more clashed together with his actuality. Moore says enterprise was sluggish, and foot visitors was nonexistent. The shop ended up closing, Moore says, even earlier than COVID-19 arrived and started devastating small companies. Outwardly, Adams tried to shrug it off, however family and friends began to note small modifications in his demeanor. “I sensed standoffishness, sort of retreating, however nothing that popped in my thoughts and thought, ‘Oh, he is depressed.”’ Moore stated.
He turned more durable and more durable to get in contact with. He’d all the time loved being by himself, however it had progressed lately, worrying his household and mates. He’d been arrested for carrying a hid weapon in 2016, however that cost was dismissed. In line with printed studies, within the days main as much as the shootings, Adams had been convicted of driving below suspension and failure to take care of correct insurance coverage.
“He was simply doing bizarre issues,” stated Aaron Neely, one among Adams’ cousins. “Like, his thoughts wasn’t proper. He was doing bizarre stuff. Like driving a four-wheeler within the woods at night time with no lights on. That is harmful. Folks would speak to him, he’d take a look at you and never say nothing. All types of bizarre stuff.”
Casterline says Adams referred to as him within the fall of 2020, asking if he might assist him discover a job. His agent was keen to assist. “I stated, ‘You progress to Texas, I am going to put you to work instantly,'” Casterline stated. “He stated, ‘No, I can not go away South Carolina.’ I assumed due to his son.”
Earlier than that, within the fall of 2017, Smith had linked Adams with Paul Scott, a former NFL govt who now owns and runs Advantages Huddle, a small enterprise he runs by himself that helps NFL veterans submit the suitable paperwork to be accepted for incapacity advantages from the league. It is a sophisticated, typically irritating course of, and one which Scott is aware of all too effectively as a result of he used to work on the opposite facet of the aisle, denying profit functions on behalf of the NFL. He has grown to be seen as one thing of an angel on the earth of retired NFL gamers, as a result of he is aware of how the league thinks and may anticipate the purple tape they use to discourage or reject claims.
Adams was concerned with making use of however did not know the place to start. “I believe he was making use of for the road of responsibility incapacity profit on the time, however with line of responsibility incapacity, you need to have your group medical data to help your declare,” Scott stated. “He was having a tough time getting his data from groups.”
Scott referred to as an govt he knew with the Raiders, who stated he was busy however promised to get in contact with Adams in a couple of weeks. Scott exchanged emails with Adams a couple of weeks later, and Adams stated he nonetheless hadn’t obtained his data. Scott instructed him to maintain attempting. If he was accepted for line of responsibility incapacity, which is often granted solely to gamers who suffered on-field accidents that required surgical procedure (resembling Adams’ compound ankle fracture), he’d be eligible to obtain no less than $4,000 per thirty days. “I assumed that he received the data or no matter,” Scott stated. “I do not wish to push these guys. I am not like a salesman. In my expertise, a variety of these guys get irritated at me if I push them. I am going to remind them one time, after which if they do not reply, I assume they’ve chosen to do one thing else or discovered another person to assist them, no matter.”
At no level, Scott stated, did Adams inquire about looking for neurocognitive advantages. He simply wished to know, if he was accepted, how lengthy it might be earlier than he began getting a verify. “Normally what occurs with these guys once they come to me, they’ve already exhausted all of their family and friends enterprise associates,” Scott stated. “They do not wish to apply for incapacity, however that is their final likelihood. And once they’re strung alongside like this, they really feel sort of determined. They really feel it. Once they’re accepted, nice. As a result of they often have some debt to repay folks. However once they’re denied, they received no different place to go. And there is nothing else on the market for them as a result of they’ve to attend a full 12 months earlier than they’re capable of reapply.”
When Scott noticed the information of the taking pictures, the identify sounded acquainted, however he could not fairly place it. “I regarded him up in my contacts and was like, ‘Yup, talked to him earlier than,'” Scott stated. “He simply by no means adopted via. I wanted authorization. If he’d despatched again authorization types that I had despatched him and a number of the groups had despatched him with the intention to ship the data to me, then perhaps issues would have been simpler on the incapacity finish. I do not know. He might have had somebody serving to him. I do not know.”
ON APRIL 7, 2021, the York County Sheriff’s Division obtained a 911 name at 4:46 p.m. from a 80-year-old man reporting a “dangerous taking pictures” at his neighbor’s home on Marshall Highway. That man stated he’d been exterior slicing his grass when he heard “about 20” gunshots. He’d simply seen somebody he suspected was the shooter — a person wearing a black hoodie — run out of the home carrying one thing below his arm (police would later embrace housebreaking among the many expenses in opposition to Adams). There have been no less than two folks within the yard who’d been shot, he stated, and certain extra inside.
When officers arrived on the scene, one of many HVAC staff — Shook, a married father of three — was nonetheless alive, and acutely aware, regardless of wounds that will finally kill him. Shook instructed the officers a Black male sporting camouflage pants and a black sweatshirt had emerged from the woods exterior the Lesslie home and simply began taking pictures. He went inside, fired extra pictures, then exited the home and disappeared into the identical woods. Shook was rushed to the hospital however died three days later. James Lewis, a single father of three, was pronounced useless on the scene.
Police have not stated how they recognized Adams as a suspect. However the officers quickly surrounded his mother and father’ home, simply up the highway from the Lesslie residence, the place he had barricaded himself inside. A standoff that lasted a number of hours ensued, with police finally getting Adams to let his mom, Phyllis, come out safely, in response to a neighbor. When officers lastly entered the home, they discovered Adams useless from a self-inflicted gunshot. “It is disheartening listening to folks name him a monster,” Moore stated. “Do not get me unsuitable. No person is attempting to excuse the acts. It is simply the acts do not match the person who we all know.”
It is nonetheless unclear what sort of relationship, if any, Adams had with Lesslie. Norman gave an interview on April 8, the day after the taking pictures, through which he stated regulation enforcement officers had instructed him that Adams had been a affected person of Lesslie’s and been upset that Lesslie stopped giving him treatment. However regulation enforcement officers by no means confirmed that, and Norman has since walked again his preliminary assertion.
On April 15, a small crowd gathered to say goodbye to Phillip Adams on the Robinson Funeral House. The household held a personal service beforehand, welcoming the general public to pay their respects after they’d gone house. The parking zone sat largely empty for an hour earlier than a couple of mourners trickled in. Kevin Davis, 54, a buddy of the household, was one of many first to reach. “I did not actually know Phillip,” he stated. “I knew the grandmother and father. We had been church members.”
Davis stated the influence on the neighborhood has been robust, notably for folks like him who knew the Lesslie household as effectively. “It is simply all tousled,” he stated. “It is odd for him simply to enter that physician’s home and do this. It is actually arduous. They’re an awesome household. It is unhappy.”
Inside, Adams was specified by an open casket. A big association of purple and white roses was draped on the decrease half of the casket. A framed image of Adams sporting his No. 35 San Francisco 49ers uniform from 2010, was displayed subsequent to the casket. Guests weren’t allowed to linger, or sit within the pews. They moved previous slowly and went out one other facet door. “The one one that may make sense of that is the Lord Above,” stated a lady directing guests.
Certainly one of Adams’ cousins, who didn’t wish to be recognized, quietly spoke to the sentiment of the room, and for thus many others who knew Adams. “None of us perceive.”
AT THE LESSLIE household memorial, Rev. Dagenhart didn’t try to elucidate the inexplicable. As a substitute, he instructed tales in regards to the Lesslies, about how essential their religion was to them. They recurrently invited the complete church to their property for picnics. It was Robert Lesslie who inspired the congregation, even earlier than America’s latest racial unrest, to forge a reference to a Black church on the town, Mount Prospect Baptist in Rock Hill.
Yearly for the previous 20 years, they spent every week volunteering at Camp Pleasure, a spot the place youngsters and adults with disabilities retreated for a respite within the North Carolina mountains. Barbara led bible research and Robert served because the camp physician, however he threw himself into each exercise he might: canoeing, horseback driving, enjoying bagpipes. “They had been encouragers,” Dagenhart stated. “They might pray with you. They’d attempt to make a tense scenario higher.”
So many mourners got here to pay their respects to the Lesslies, the service was held on the cavernous West Finish Baptist Church as a substitute of the First Affiliate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the place the Lesslies had been members. The constructing was packed, the parking zone full, an hour earlier than it started. Dagenhart requested the congregation to wish not only for the Lesslies, the Shook and Lewis households, but additionally for Adams’ relations, a reminder that, arduous because it was to grasp, that they had misplaced somebody as effectively. He requested the congregation to hitch him in singing “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” a hymn that was particular to the Lesslie Household. It was Adah’s and Noah’s bedtime track.
“Why questions don’t have any solutions,” Dagenhart stated. “However one query we will pose through which we, as believers, can know. The query is: ‘Do I serve a grasp that I belief? Do I serve a lord I can belief?’ If the reply is sure, you then might be in regards to the subsequent factor that wants doing. Preserve doing the subsequent factor till the day is completed, trusting all else, the subsequent day begin another time. Time offers you the peace and energy you want.”
When the memorial ended, the Lesslies’ mates and family members slowly gathered their issues and started to go away the church. As they packed into vans exterior, all of them handed a person strolling forwards and backwards amongst the gang, filling the air with the sound of bagpipes.