A security guard was shot inside the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington on Wednesday morning in what appears to be a politically motivated attack.
David Mariner, executive director of the center, released the following statement: ”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.”
Mariner told the AP that his most recent shift as a front desk receptionist was 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.
Following initial accounts, it is also being reported that Corkins made a negative reference about the Christian lobbying organization’s work before he opened fire on the security guard. AP reports that Corkins has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
According to Fox News, a source says the suspect “made statements regarding their policies, and then opened fire with a gun striking a security guard.”
Other reports state he was carrying a Chick-fil-A bag.
The FRC has been an active opponent of marriage equality and claims to advance “faith, family and freedom in public policy and opinion.”
According to a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, the shooting happened at the conservative Christian group’s offices at 801 G St. NW near Verizon Center in Chinatown around 10:50 Wednesday morning.
The security guard was struck in the arm and transported to a local area hospital conscious and breathing. One suspect was apprehended and a weapon was recovered at the scene.
Police say the shooting is still under investigation and its motivation is unknown. Because the FRC’s offices are housed inside a federally owned building, the FBI is also responding. Gwendolyn Crump, MPD spokeswoman, confirmed Aug. 16 that the FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation.
In a statement, FRC President Tony Perkins said police were investigating the incident.
“Our first concern is with our colleague who was shot today,” Perkins said. “Our concern is for him and his family.”
An FBI spokesperson confirmed to Metro Weekly that the suspected shooter was in FBI custody, but reiterated on Wednesday evening that motivation had not yet been determined.
According to the FBI, the shooter was tackled and restrained by the injured security guard and others in the lobby of FRC headquarters while they waited for police to arrive. Although some news outlets reported that the shooting was being considered a case of domestic terrorism, an FBI spokesperson said all possible motives were still being investigated.
Whether the FBI will take the lead on the investigation will depend on if the shooting is deemed a hate crime.
Even though the investigation remains ongoing, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) released a statement assigning blame on LGBT advocates’ rhetoric.
In an Aug. 15 statement, NOM President Brian Brown pointed the finger at gay rights groups that have labeled “pro-marriage” organizations “hate groups.”
“Today’s attack is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end,” said Brown. “The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Family Research Council a ‘hate group’ for its pro-marriage views, and less than a day ago the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling FRC a ‘hate group’ – they even specified that FRC hosts events in Washington, DC, where today’s attack took place.”
Brown said that for “too long national gay rights groups have intentionally marginalized and ostracized pro-marriage groups and individuals by labeling them as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted.'”
In a joint statement, the leaders of more than 25 LGBT organizations wrote, “Our hearts go out to the shooting victim, his family, and his co-workers.”
“The motivation and circumstances behind today’s tragedy are still unknown, but regardless of what emerges as the reason for this shooting, we utterly reject and condemn such violence,” they continued. “We wish for a swift and complete recovery for the victim of this terrible incident.”
The conservative American Family Association (AFA) issued a statement Aug. 16 thanking God for his protection and the security guard, Leo Johnson, for his heroism in stopping the shooter. Like NOM, AFA took the opportunity to counter critics, accusing “the left” of waging a cultural war against religion and Christianity.
“As conservatives, we believe that public policy disputes should be resolved through the use of ballots, not bullets, through votes, not violence, through reason, not rage,” the AFA statement reads, in part.
“Yesterday’s shooter, who was a homosexual activist who volunteered at a D.C. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community center, took the argument to a whole new and ugly level.”
The AFA commended the many LGBT groups who issued statements condemning the shooting, while also reiterating its talking points about homosexuality, saying: “Disagreement is not hatred. We don’t hate anyone. In fact, we love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth about the risks involved in their lifestyle choices. But for those who hate the truth, the truth will seem to be hate.”
Both Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama responded to the news on Wednesday. Romney called the shooting appalling, stating, “There is no place for such violence in our society.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on the campaign trail that the president was informed of the shooting around 1 p.m. Wednesday and expressed concern for the victim. Carney said Obama believes “this type of violence has no place in our society.”
John Riley contributed to this report.
[Edtor’s note: This story was updated at 1:40 p.m., Aug. 16, to include the statement from the AFA and MPD confirmation of FBI leading the investigation.]