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Ex-NFL player Phillip Adams broke into SC home, killed doctor and family: cops

A former NFL defensive back forced his way into the South Carolina home of a prominent doctor and gunned down his family — including his two young grandchildren — before shooting himself inside his parents’ home nearby, authorities said.

Phillip Adams, 32, shot two air-conditioning contractors outside the home of Dr. Robert Lesslie — killing one — before breaking in and shooting the physician and his family in a back room, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

Adams had two handguns, a .45-caliber and a 9 mm, when deputies later found him dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his family’s home down the road.

Tolson said investigators quickly found evidence “that linked” Adams to Lesslie, but said a motive for the horrific shootings remains unknown.

“We have probably more questions than what you do about this case right now,” he said during a press briefing Thursday. “We are working hard to provide some answers. Obviously, one answer is why. That is a question that we are probing as we speak.”

“There’s nothing about this that makes any sense,” the sheriff said.

Dr. Robert Lesslie and his wife, Barbara, along with their two grandchildren, were among five people killed in a shooting in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Dr. Robert Lesslie and his wife, Barbara, along with their two grandchildren, were among five people killed in a shooting in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

However, Philip’s father Alonzo Adams, told WCNC Thursday that they knew the Lesslie family.

“He used to be my doctor a long time ago. I know they were good folks down there. We’re gonna keep them in our prayers,” Alonzo told the outlet.

Philip had also been treated by the doctor, a source told the Associated Press.

Found dead inside the home were Lesslie, 70, his wife Barbara, 69, and their grandchildren, Adah, 9, and Noah, 5.

Also shot and killed was 38-year-old James Lewis, an employee of Gaston Sheet Metal who was working at the Lesslie home, while his co-worker was wounded.

9-year-old Adah Lesslie, middle right, and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie, middle left, were also among those killed.
9-year-old Adah Lesslie, middle right, and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie, middle left, were also among those killed.

Chilling audio of 911 calls around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday played by the sheriff’s office at the briefing reveals details of the horrific scene.

“My technician just called me literally 30 seconds ago,” a caller from the sheet metal company told the dispatcher. “My two technicians are there. One called me. He can’t talk. He’s screaming, ‘I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot.’”

“And I asked him where the other one is and he’s saying he’s laying here and he’s not responding and he was shot also,” the caller said. “I can’t get any other information out of him.”

Phillip Adams

Tolson said Adams fled the scene, and was tracked down at his parents’ home nearby after police dispatched a drone, canines and a chopper to locate him.

The sheriff said deputies did not hear a gunshot after clearing his parents out of the house — and were not getting a response when trying to talk the former NFL player out of the bedroom.

Adams, whose career included stints with the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, and New England Patriots, was then found dead inside the room from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Phillip Adams playing in a game for the Oakland Raiders on September 15, 2013.
Phillip Adams playing in a game for the Oakland Raiders on September 15, 2013.
via REUTERS

The athlete had a spotty six-year NFL career marred by injuries. He last played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

“I can say he’s a good kid,” Adams’ father, Alonzo Adams, told WCNC. “I think the football messed him up.”

In 2012, he suffered two concussions during a three-game span while playing for the Raiders, according to reports.

He played at South Carolina State University before being drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers.

He played 78 games over six pro seasons. 

A York County sheriff vehicle at the scene of the shooting on April 8, 2021.
A York County sheriff vehicle at the scene of the shooting on April 8, 2021.
AP Photo/Nell Redmond

Adams was arrested on a simple battery charge in 2009 but was later acquitted, and was cited for traffic violations on Tuesday, a day before the shootings.

In a statement Thursday, US Rep. Ralph Norman issued a statement, saying the Lesslies were close friends of his family.

“I cannot describe the heartache and pain Eliane and I are feeling this morning, as we mourn the tragic loss of Dr. Robert Lesslie, his wife, Barbara, and their grandchildren, Adah and Noah,” the congressman wrote on Twitter.

“To know the Lesslie family is to love them,” Norman wrote. “Through the decades, they made such an incredible impact on our area and the lives of countless people — more than they could have ever known.”

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson speaking about the shooting at a press conference on April 8, 2021 in York, South Carolina.
York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson speaking about the shooting at a press conference on April 8, 2021 in York, South Carolina.
AP Photo/Nell Redmond



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