A US Christian conservative lobbying group on Thursday accused a civil rights organization of provoking the man who allegedly shot a security guard in its Washington headquarters.
Floyd Lee Corkins, 28, a former volunteer with a Washington gay advocacy group, has been charged with shooting and trying to kill the guard, Leonardo Johnson, at the Family Research Council on Wednesday.
The suspected gunman, who made his first court appearance on Thursday, faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
“Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Council president Terry Perkins told a press conference outside the headquarters.
Perkins said such organizations “have been reckless in labeling organizations ‘hate groups,’ because they disagree with them on public policy.” The FRC has advocated against same-sex marriage and abortion.
The Southern Poverty Law Center quickly responded, calling Perkins’ allegations “outrageous.”
“The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010, because (the FRC) has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people — not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage,” the center said.
Corkins, a resident of Virginia, was charged by local authorities with “assault with intent to kill while armed,” which is punishable by a minimum of five and a maximum of 30 years in prison.
He has also been charged with the federal crime of transporting a firearm and ammunition across state borders — punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
The FBI had said that on Wednesday, an assailant walked into the FRC and shot a security guard in the arm before he was subdued.
According to a copy of an FBI affidavit obtained by AFP, a witness said Corkins had said “‘I don’t like your politics’ before allegedly opening fire.
The affidavit also said Corkins was also carrying 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, a fast food chain embroiled in an ongoing national controversy over the firm’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
Both the Republican candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, Mitt Romney, and Democratic incumbent Barack Obama condemned the attack.
Romney said he was “appalled” by the incident, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president had also expressed “concern” for the victim.
The DC Center for the LGBT Community, where Corkins once volunteered, condemned the attack, and published an open letter on its website to “reject and condemn such violence” signed by over 40 local and national LGBT groups.
“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,” director David Mariner said Wednesday in a statement.
Center staff declined to comment on the attack, and a sign posted on the organization’s front door said the office will be closed Thursday and Friday.