August 16, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Suspected gunman appears in court; charged with assault with intent to kill
Law gavel, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II was ordered held without bond on Thursday by a federal judge one day after the FBI and D.C. police apprehended him for allegedly shooting a security guard in the lobby of the headquarters of one of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, a part-time volunteer for D.C.’s LGBT community center, was ordered held without bond on Thursday by a federal judge one day after the FBI and D.C. police apprehended him for allegedly shooting a security guard in the lobby of the headquarters of one of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups.

The FBI placed Corkins in custody around 11 a.m. Wednesday in the lobby of the Family Research Council’s national headquarters at 801 G Street, N.W., after police said he shot security officer Leo Johnson in the arm. Police said Johnson, who sustained a non-life-threatening wound, and other guards wrestled Calkins to the floor and took away the gun.

U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay ordered Corkins held until Aug. 24, when a joint preliminary and detention hearing will be held in which prosecutors must present evidence showing probable cause that Corkins committed offenses related to two charges filed against him Thursday morning by the FBI.

One of the charges is the federal offense of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. The second is a D.C. offense of assault with intent to kill while armed.

FBI officials said the firearms charge was brought because Corkins transported the gun and ammunition from Virginia, where he purchased them legally, to D.C. for the purpose of committing a crime.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Martin, one of two prosecutors in the case, asked Kay during the court hearing to arrange for Corkins to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before the preliminary and detention hearing set for Aug. 24. Kay responded by calling the prosecutors and court appointed defense attorney David Vos to a private bench conference to discuss the request.

When the bench conference ended, Kay adjourned the hearing without announcing whether he approved or denied the government’s request for the psychiatric evaluation.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said after the hearing that Kay granted the government’s request for a mental health evaluation of Corkins.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called Johnson a hero for risking his life by preventing Corkins from entering the upper floors of the building where Family Research Council employees work. Lanier said that while authorities were not certain what Corkins’ motive was, a stash of ammunition recovered from his backpack suggested he might have been planning a mass killing.

An FBI arrest affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Thursday morning says a witness told the FBI “Corkins stated words to the effect of ‘I don’t like your politics’ to Johnson and other security officials in the lobby seconds before he pulled out his gun and shot Johnson.

The FBI, which is leading the investigation into the case, charged Corkins with the federal offense of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. It also charged him with the D.C. offense of assault with intent to kill while armed.

The affidavit says authorities recovered from the scene a loaded Sig Suer 9mm pistol that Corkins allegedly used to shoot Johnson and two magazines loaded with 9mm ammunition.

It says the FBI also recovered from a backpack that Corkins had with him a box containing an additional 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition along with fifteen Chick-fil-A- sandwiches.

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Tony Perkins said the Chick fil-A sandwiches found in Corkins’ backpack strongly suggest that he had targeted the FRC for its conservative political beliefs, possibly including its opposition to same-sex marriage. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a news conference Thursday outside the Family Research Council’s headquarters, held less than an hour after Corkins appeared in court, FRC Executive Director Tony Perkins said the Chick fil-A sandwiches found in Corkins’ backpack strongly suggest that he had targeted the FRC for its conservative political beliefs, possibly including its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Perkins noted that the Family Research Council had issued statements in support of Chick-fil-A during the past several weeks, after some gay activists criticized the company’s president for his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Perkins appeared to make note of the LGBT organizations that spoke out against the shooting of the FRC security officer when he told reporters, “I do also want to express my appreciation to the groups and organizations that we do not agree with on many public policy issues who have also expressed their outrage at what took place here yesterday.”

But Perkins created a stir among LGBT groups when he criticized the pro-LGBT Southern Poverty Law Center, a nationally recognized civil rights group, for being “reckless” for labeling groups like the FRC as hate groups.

“I want to be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues and our friend Leo Johnson,” Perkins said.

“But Corkins was given license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations as hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy,” Perkins said. “And I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology that is leading to the intimidation in what the FBI here has categorized as an act of domestic terrorism.”

In a statement posted on its website Thursday afternoon, Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow Mark Potok called Perkins’ comment “outrageous,” saying SPLC has for more than 40 years denounced violence.

“We have argued consistently that violence is no answer to problems in a democratic society, and we have strongly criticized all of those who endorse such violence, whether on the political left or the political right,” Potok said in his statement.

“The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people – not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage,” he said.

Leaders of 40 national, state, and local LGBT advocacy organizations – including the DC LGBT Center — issued a joint statement Wednesday night condemning the shooting at the FRC building and expressing support for Johnson and his family and for his full and speedy recovery.

Officials with the D.C. LGBT Center said Corkins had been working as a volunteer at the center’s front desk on weekends for about six months and there were no signs of any problems associated with his work.

“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,” the center’s executive director, David Mariner, said in a statement.

“No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible,” Mariner said. “We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

But Mariner has declined to release additional details about Corkins’ background, adding to the mystery both within the LGBT community and the community at large about who Corkins is. It could not immediately be determined whether Corkins was gay.

The FBI arrest affidavit says Corkins lived with his parents in Herndon and drove silver 2004 Dodge Neon, which is registered under the names of his parents, to the East Falls Church Metro station on the day of the shooting. The affidavit says he took the Metro to D.C. and walked from a Metro station to the Family Research Council building.

“FBI special agents interviewed Jacqueline Shenise Corkins and Floyd Lee Corkins, who stated that they are the parents of Floyd Lee Corkins II,” the affidavit says. “They also stated that Corkins has been living at [their] residence up to the present date.”

The affidavit adds, “Corkins’ parents informed the FBI special agents that Corkins has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner.”

News media reports have cited unnamed law enforcement sources as saying Corkins has a master’s degree. The Washington Post reported that a friend of Corkins during the time the two attended George Mason University described Corkins as “secretive and somewhat odd.”

The friend told the Post that Corkins “displayed an intense interest in the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

3 Comments
  • What exactly do we know about the nature of the shooter’s volunteer work at that LGBT center? Sorry, but rightwing extremists like Perkins and the FRC are the cultural and political descendants of Nixon and COINTELPRO.

    Yes, the kid could have simply been violent *and* queer and the situation could be exactly what it appears to be, but…

    “a witness told the FBI “Corkins stated words to the effect of ‘I don’t like your politics’ to Johnson and other security officials in the lobby seconds before he pulled out his gun and shot Johnson”

    Does “I don’t like your politics” *really* sound like the way anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity would verbally phrase their anger about anything immediately before resorting to the use of a gun to further express that anger? Something smells – and it ain’t a bag o’ Chick Fil-A.

    • Actually, had the situation been reversed, and a “right winger” said that to someone at the LGBT offices before shooting them, you and others like you would be yelling to have it deemed a hate crime. it’s a hate crime whether it is committed by us, or against us. let’s not forget that.

  • *****
    Jayson August 19, 2012 at 9:14 am
    Actually, had the situation been reversed, and a “right winger” said that to someone at the LGBT offices before shooting them, you and others like you would be yelling to have it deemed a hate crime. it’s a hate crime whether it is committed by us, or against us. let’s not forget that.
    *****
    There’s nothing wrong with idle speculation here, as long as we all keep in mind that we don’t know the facts of this case…

    Actually, it’s pretty doubtful this (or its hypothetical equivalent at a LGBT advocacy group) qualifies as a hate crime, given a (non-lawyer’s) reading of DC’s hate crimes law (22-3701+), and based upon the REPORTED remark by the the alleged assailant. If it were considered so, it would likely NOT be on the basis of “sexual orientation” as a bias motivation; more likely it’s the “POLITICAL AFFILIATION” bias designation in the law that would apply.

    Speaking to the law’s CRIMINAL remedies…
    It is not hard to see how a CRIMINAL defense lawyer could drive a freight train through a remark as general as, ‘I don’t like your politics.’ The evidence (i.e., the reported remark) lacks clarity. Ergo, it’s not likely USAO-DC would want to spend a lot of its crime-fighting time/ budget resources on prosecuting it as a hate crime– having to seek a 99%/ ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard for conviction.

    But speaking to the law’s CIVIL remedies– which MPD, by law, must also address and *PROTECT*…
    If the quote is verified, both FRC and the guard might be able to seek civil remedies against the assailant under DC’s hate crimes law– again, likely for “political affiliation” bias– as that a civil action standard is far less than the 99%/ ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard for criminal conviction.

    That just highlights how powerful DC’s 23-year old hate crimes law is in protecting victims’ rights to easily seek remedies. That’s a very good thing– both for victims, and to deter future hate crimes perpetrators.

    However, the flip side of that broad legal protection for hate crimes victims is an important one for everyone to understand…

    Because DC’s law essentially tasks MPD with reporting suspected hate crimes incidents (whether witnessed by, or reported to MPD) in order to protect victims’ civil remedies and to gather hate crimes stats, the number of cases MPD must classify as suspected hate crimes is always likely to be significantly HIGHER than the subset of that number which USAO-DC can reasonably prosecute criminally, based upon the facts, circumstances and clarity of evidence that meets the highest standard of proof.

    None of us should be criticizing MPD and USAO-DC because the reported hate crimes are always much higher than the prosecuted hate crimes.

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