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Profile: Mark Hulsether

Mark Hulsether was a participant or observer in the following events:

A selection from Adkisson’s ‘manifesto’ explaining his desire to kill liberals.A selection from Adkisson’s ‘manifesto’ explaining his desire to kill liberals. [Source: Jim David Adkisson / Crooks and Liars] (click image to enlarge)Jim David Adkisson, a former Army mechanic held on first degree murder charges in lieu of a $1 million bail after killing two people and wounding seven at a Knoxville, Tennessee, church (see July 27, 2008) [NBC News, 7/18/2008; Associated Press, 7/28/2008; CNN, 7/28/2008] , apparently chose to kill members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) because the church is considered a liberal organization. This conclusion is drawn from statements to the police and a rambling four-page document found in his car. In those statements and the document, Adkisson expresses his intense hatred of liberals, blacks, and homosexuals. He tells police that he opened fire in the church because he “wanted to kill liberals,” and the TVUUC has a reputation as one of Knoxville’s gathering places for liberals. “That church had received some publicity in the recent past regarding its liberal stance on things,” says Knoxville police chief Sterling Owen, “and that is at least one of the issues we believe caused that church to be targeted.” Adkisson will express no remorse whatsoever for his crimes [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 pdf file; Guardian, 7/28/2008; New York Times, 7/29/2008; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009] , later saying that if given the chance, he would do the same thing again (see February 9, 2009), and characterizes his motives as rooted in patriotism. [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 pdf file; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] He writes that he expected to be in the church until police arrived, and ultimately to be slain by police. [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 pdf file; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] Police later add that evidence shows Adkisson planned the shooting for a week, but as Owen notes, “I’m sure this is something that’s been building a long time.” [Guardian, 7/28/2008] Friends and neighbors tell of an angry, embittered man who hates extravagantly and blames others for his misfortunes, though some describe him as “friendly” and recall him spending a lot of time on his motorcycle. [Fox News, 7/28/2008; Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/28/2008] “Adkisson was a loner who hates blacks, gays, and anyone different from him,” says longtime acquaintance Carol Smallwood. [Raw Story, 7/28/2008]
Hate Crime - Police are determining whether to charge Adkisson with the commission of a hate crime. [CNN, 7/28/2008] Knox County commissioner Mark Harmon, a member of the church, says that knowing of Adkisson’s feelings towards liberals and gays “does clarify just what type of hate crime this was. Regardless of motivations, when someone comes into your house of worship and shoots a shotgun indiscriminately it’s an earth-shattering act of hatred.” [New York Times, 7/29/2008]
Frustration at Unemployment - The document found in Adkisson’s car is divided into four parts. The first gives some details about Adkisson’s frustration at being unable to find a job, a situation for which he blames unnamed “liberals.” Adkisson writes that he is a former soldier and accomplished husband who cannot find work as a mechanic, and whose wife left him. “Over the years, I’ve had some good jobs, but I always got layed [sic] off,” he wrote. “Now I’m 58 years old and I can’t get a decent job. I’m told I’m ‘over qualified,’ which is a code word for ‘too damned old,’ like I’m expected to age gracefully in poverty. No thanks! I’m done.” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 pdf file; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] Police later report that Adkisson was on the verge of losing his government-subsidized food stamps when he went on his shooting spree. [Raw Story, 7/28/2008]
Hatred of Liberals - The document quickly turns to Adkisson’s deep hatred of liberals. “[Democrats] are all a bunch of traitors,” Adkisson writes. “Liberals have attacked every major institution that made America great.” He continues: “I’ve always wondered why I was put on the earth.… [L]ately I’ve been feeling helpless in our war on terrorism. But I realized I could engage the terrorists’ allies here in America. The best allies they’ve got.” He slams the “liberal Supreme Court Justices” and Washington Democrats, and spends some vitriol on President Obama, whom he calls “Osama Hussein Obama,” a “radical leftist” who “looks like Curious George.” A police affidavit reads in part: “He felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets. Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement… he would then target those that had voted them into office.” As a generalization, Adkisson writes, “Liberals are a pest like termites, millions of them… the only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets, kill them where they gather.” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 pdf file; CNN, 7/28/2008; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009]
Hatred of TVUUC - Adkisson then turns to his hatred of the TVUUC, which he calls a “cult” that “worships the God of Secularism” and a “den of un-American vipers.” He accuses the church of elitism and hypocrisy, saying it accepts “perverts” but hates conservatives, and asks, “[H]ow is a white woman having a niger [sic] baby progress?” He calls the church members “ultra liberals” who are “foot soldiers” for liberals in government. “Don’t let the word church mislead you,” he writes. “This isn’t a church, it’s a cult. They don’t even believe in God. They worship the God of secularism.… The UU church is the fountainhead, the veritable wellspring of anti-American organizations.” Adkisson’s motivation to attack this specific church may have a personal element; he writes of the church: “They embrace every pervert that comes down the pike, but if they find out your [sic] a conservative, they absolutely hate you. I know. I experienced it.” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 pdf file; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] A former neighbor of Adkisson’s, Karen Massey, says that Adkisson may hate the idea of religion altogether. She recalls a conversation she had with him centering on the news that her daughter had just graduated from a nearby Bible college. After she explained that she was a Christian, Massey recalls: “He almost turned angry. He seemed to get angry at that. He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it.” Massey recalls Adkisson frequently complaining about his parents, who apparently “made him go to church all his life.… He acted like he was forced to do that.” [Fox News, 7/28/2008]
'Hate Crime' - Adkisson writes flatly, “This was a hate Crime [and] a Political Protest.” He continues: “This was a Symbolic Killing.… I wanted to kill every Democrat in the Senate” and other such places, as well as “everyone in the Mainstream Media,” but since “I couldn’t get to the generals and high ranking officers… I went after the foot soldiers, the chickensh_t liberals that vote in these traitorous people.” He concludes his document by explaining: “No one gets out of this world alive so I’ve chosen to skip the bad years of poverty.… The future looks bleak. I’m absolutely fed up! So I thought I’d do something good for this country—kill Democrats ‘til (sic) the cops kill me.… Liberals are a pest like termites… the only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets.… I’d like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I’ve done. If life ain’t worth living anymore, don’t just kill yourself… kill liberals. Tell the cop that killed me that I said, ‘Thanks, I needed that.’” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 pdf file; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009]
Police: Apartment Contains Right-Wing Books - A police search reveals that Adkisson’s home contains brass knuckles, empty boxes of shotgun shells, a handgun, and an array of right-wing political books. Before the search, Adkisson tells police that he left the door unlocked for them because, he says, “he expected to be killed during the assault.” Among the books found by the police: Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder by radio talk show host Michael Savage, Let Freedom Ring by Fox News and radio talk show host Sean Hannity, and The O’Reilly Factor, by Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly. [Raw Story, 7/28/2008; Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/28/2008]
Reactions - Mark Hulsether of ReligionDispatches (.org) writes that Americans need to look at Adkisson’s document “squarely and soberly—both the pain and despair (and apparently sincere patriotism) underlying the manifesto, as well as its sensationally hateful, twisted, and violent ideas. It is time for people from across the political spectrum—not only liberals but also sincere people on the right, as well as people in the mainstream media who too-often enable the far right—to use today’s news as a wake-up call. Discourses that demonize ‘liberalism’ and/or treat such demonizing as a harmless joke (as when Ann Coulter called for terrorists to bomb the New York Times building) seem even less funny today than they did yesterday.” [ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009] After learning of some of Adkisson’s beliefs and statements, Amy Broyles, who was at the church the day of the shooting, will tell a reporter that Adkisson “was a man who was hurt in the world and feeling that nothing was going his way. He turned the gun on people who were mostly likely to treat him lovingly and compassionately and be the ones to help someone in that situation.” [Associated Press, 7/28/2008]

Entity Tags: Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Sterling Owen IV, Mark Hulsether, Karen Massey, Mark Harmon, Carol Smallwood, Amy Broyles, Jim David Adkisson

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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