Corkins Pleads Guilty in FRC Shooting

Suspect in Family Research Council shooting pleads to felony charges, including a charge of terrorism

Floyd Lee Corkins II, the suspect in the August shooting at the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters in Washington, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this morning to three felony charges, including a charge of terrorism under the District of Columbia’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002.

Corkins, who faced up to 10 different charges related to the FRC shooting, pleaded guilty to charges of committing an act of terrorism while armed, becoming the first defendant to be charged and convicted under the statute, introduced soon after the 9/11 attacks, which cover criminal actions committed with the intent to ”intimidate or coerce a significant population of the District of Columbia or the United States.”

Corkins also pleaded guilty to two other counts: one of assault with intent to kill while armed, and another of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition.

Corkins could serve up to a maximum of 30 years in prison for the terrorism offense and the assault charge, and up to 10 years for the weapons-related charge. He remains held without bond as he awaits sentencing, which has been scheduled for April 29.

Corkins had served as a volunteer front-desk receptionist for The DC Center, the District’s LGBT community center, but few of the other volunteers for the organization remember interacting with him.

According to the statement of offense, Corkins, of Herndon, Va., purchased a semiautomatic pistol from a store in Virginia on Aug. 9, 2012, and picked up the weapon the following day with the intent of shooting and killing as many employees at FRC headquarters as possible, targeting FRC because of its anti-gay views. On Aug. 13, Corkins rehearsed his planned trip to FRC headquarters, and returned to the gun store the following day for shooting practice. According to the government’s evidence, on the morning of Aug. 15, Corkins rode Metrorail into the District and went into FRC headquarters at 801 G St. NW. To gain access to the building, he told security guard Leonardo Reno ”Leo” Johnson, 46, of Washington, that he was interviewing as a prospective intern. Corkins then approached an unarmed Johnson, pulled the pistol from his backpack and pointed it at him. Johnson charged Corkins and the two struggled as Corkins fired three shots, striking Johnson in the arm. Despite his wounds, Johnson managed to subdue Corkins until Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers arrived. For those actions, Mayor Vincent Gray (D) awarded Johnson, who was unable to work for months following emergency surgery and the insertion of metal plates into his arm, with the inaugural Mayor’s Medal of Honor at an Oct. 22 ceremony.

After being subdued by Johnson, Corkins stated, ”It’s not about you,” but about FRC’s policies, making remarks to the effect of, ”I don’t like these people, and I don’t like what they stand for.”

Police later discovered two fully loaded magazine clips in Corkins’s pants pockets, as well as a Metro card and a handwritten list of organizations: FRC and three other groups promoting socially conservative agendas. Corkins also had a box of 50 rounds of 9-millimeter ammunition in his backpack, as well as 15 individually wrapped sandwiches purchased from Chick-fil-A the day prior to the shooting.

According to statements made to the FBI, Corkins claimed he was a political activist. He also stated he intended to kill as many people as possible and smear the Chick-fil-A sandwiches into their faces. ”Chick-fil-A came out against gay marriage so I was going to use that as a statement,” Corkins allegedly told investigators.

Investigators also reported that Corkins detailed the steps he took in planning the attack, saying he had been thinking about committing a similarly violent act for years, but had never carried one out. Had he not been stopped at FRC headquarters, he said, he planned to go down his list to the next organization and commit a similar shooting there.

High-raking law enforcement officials expressed relief at the guilty plea and thanked the officers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, MPD and the FBI for their work on the case, as well as the prosecuting attorneys, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ann Petalas and T. Patrick Martin of the national security section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

”Were it not for the heroic guard who tackled Floyd Corkins, he could have succeeded in perpetrating a mass killing spree in the nation’s capital,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr., said in a statement following Corkins’s guilty plea. ”This case highlights the dangers of access to high-capacity magazines that allow killers to inflict carnage on a mass scale in the blink of an eye. Today’s guilty plea makes clear that using violence to terrorize political opponents will not be tolerated.”

”Individuals such as Mr. Corkins, who commit violent acts in pursuit of political aims, are a danger to our society and to the freedoms we enjoy as citizens,” Valerie Parlave, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, said in an accompanying statement. ”In today’s plea, Mr. Corkins admitting to committing an act of terrorism in the District of Columbia. Together with our partner law enforcement agencies and with the assistance of the community, the FBI will pursue all those who seek to intimidate or harm U.S. citizens.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com