The president of a conservative Christian-based family organization said Thursday that the blame for the shooting of a colleague was shared between the man with the gun and groups that practice “reckless use of terminology.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins singled out the Southern Poverty Law Center as an example during a news conference outside the council’s offices, where a day earlier a man walked into the building’s lobby with a gun and shot a security guard in the arm.
Mr. Perkins said 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins II fired the shot, but he was “given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations ‘hate groups’ because they disagree with them on public policy.”
“There’s no room for that in a society such as ours that works through differences that we have on issues and public policy through peaceful means,” he said.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the law center, called the claims an “outrageous” attack in a statement posted to the center’s Hatewatch blog.
“The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticisms in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence,” Mr. Potok stated.
Mr. Corkins of Herndon was charged under D.C. law with assault with intent to kill and under federal law for transporting ammunition across state lines. If found guilty of both, he would face a maximum of 40 years behind bars. He had his initial appearance Thursday in federal court in the District.
He was not charged with a hate crime or domestic terrorism, though officials said he could be charged with those offenses as the investigation continues.
Wearing a white nylon jumpsuit, Mr. Corkins shuffled into a courtroom that was crowded with reporters. His right eye was bruised and swollen nearly shut, and he kept his unshackled hands behind his back when he stood to address the judge.
Mr. Corkins said little except to address the judge in “yes” or “no” answers and to request an attorney because he had no cash, no property and only $300 in the bank.
Mr. Corkins is set to remain behind bars until his next court appearance Aug. 24 for a preliminary and detention hearing. A judge also granted a request from prosecutors to conduct a mental evaluation of Mr. Corkins.
According to court documents, Mr. Corkins left the home he shares with his parents in Herndon at about 9 a.m. Wednesday and drove to the East Falls Church Metro station. He left his car in the lot — police found it later that day with what resembled a black gun box in the front seat — and entered the Chinatown-based research council lobby at about 10:50 a.m.
Mr. Perkins said the guard is the building’s operations manager and security is a secondary duty. He was not wearing a uniform or carrying a gun.
After Mr. Corkins was arrested, police found 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack, according to court documents.
The Family Research Council has been outspoken on hot-button social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Most recently, it spoke out in support of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A after same-sex marriage advocates expressed outrage at a comment by company President Dan Cathy that his business supported traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
Mr. Corkins‘ parents also told investigators Wednesday that their son “has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner,” court documents state.
Mr. Corkins is known to have volunteered with the DC Center, an organization that supports gay, bisexual and transgender people.
DC Center Executive Director David Mariner said he was shocked about the news.
Mr. Perkins said he appreciated the outpouring of support from people and groups around the world, including those with political views that are fundamentally opposed to the council‘s, but nonetheless “expressed their outrage at what took place here.”
Mr. Perkins said he visited his colleague at the hospital late Wednesday night, after the officer came out of surgery, and told him he was a hero.
“He said, ‘This hero business is hard work,’ ” Mr. Perkins recalled. “So he did not lose his sense of humor.”