YORK COUNTY, S.C. — The gunman who killed himself after killing six people including a prominent doctor in South Carolina Wednesday evening was former NFL player Phillip Adams, according to investigators.
AP sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Adams’ parents live near the doctor’s home in Rock Hill, and that he had been treated by the doctor. Detectives told Channel 9 that they were unable to confirm a doctor-patient relationship between the two.
According to investigators, Adams killed himself after midnight with a .45 caliber weapon. The coroner’s office listed Adams’ cause of death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Adams, 32, was born on July 20, 1988 in Rock Hill. He graduated from Rock Hill High School and starred at South Carolina State, where he played cornerback and on special teams.
He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. According to ESPN player statistics, he played in 15 games that year, recording 13 total tackles and one defended pass, before brief stints with the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.
He finished his professional career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, York county Sheriff Kevin Tolson said Adams was issued several minor traffic citations in the county in February. He also said Adams had some pending criminal charges in Mecklenburg County from 2016. Tolson did not go in to detail about the pending charges.
A Rock Hill School District spokesperson told Channel 9 that Adams’ mother is a former, long-time educator in the school district.
Adam’s first grade teacher and family friend, who did not want to be identified, told Channel 9 she was distraught after learning her former student was accused of killing six people.
“The person who killed this family bears no resemblance to the Phillip I knew -- with the good heart, always having fun, getting along with everybody and just being a special kid,” she said.
Scott Casterline was Adams’ NFL agent for his entire five-year career.
“I just want people to know he wasn’t that way, he was a guy you liked to be around,” Casterline said.
He said they were great friends and described Adams as quiet and hard-working. He said no one could have seen this coming.
Adams often isolated himself, even as a player, Casterline told the AP. Casterline said he spoke regularly with Adams’ father, who left him a voicemail Wednesday morning.
“This is so unlike him. He had to not be in his right mind, obviously,” Casterline said, adding that Adams struggled away from the game.
“He had an injury his rookie year. Some teams wrote him off and he had that stigma of a guy who was hurt,” Casterline said. “It was hard for him to walk away from the game, especially a guy as dedicated as he was.”
“We encouraged him to explore all of his disability options and he wouldn’t do it,” Casterline added. “I knew he was hurting and missing football but he wouldn’t take health tips offered to him. He said he would but he wouldn’t.”
“I felt he was lost without football, somewhat depressed.”
Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith, who trained Adams, said the former NFL player had opened a shop selling smoothies before COVID-19 hit. Both he and Casterline emphasized Adams didn’t drink or do drugs.”
In an interview with USA Today, Adams’s sister said her brother’s behavior shifted dramatically over the past few years.
She told the paper, “his mental health degraded fast and terribly bad” and that the family did “notice signs of mental illness that was extremely concerning” and nothing like they had ever seen.
She also said his behavior wasn’t violent but that “his temperament had changed where he was super laid back forever and all of the sudden he had that temper. You could just tell that something was off.”
The York County coroner’s office said Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, were pronounced dead at the scene along with grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5.
Tolson said 32-year-old Adams broke into Lesslie’s home Wednesday afternoon and shot and killed Lesslie, his wife Barbara and two of their grandkids.
He is also accused of shooting two HVAC techs who were working at the home. 38-year-old James Lewis was found shot to death outside, and the other technician, Robert Shook, 38, was flown to a Charlotte hospital in critical condition, but died days later, according to the York County coroner’s office.
Tolson said Adams left evidence at the scene that quickly developed him as a suspect. The search for him lasted nine hours and ended just a quarter mile away at his home where he was found dead.
The investigation is ongoing.
The Cox Media Group National Content Desk and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cox Media Group