WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who had been a volunteer at a community center for gays walked into the lobby of a conservative political organization, made a negative comment about what the group stands for, pulled a gun and opened fire, authorities said.
But the shooting Wednesday morning at the downtown Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council left only one person injured: the security guard. And after being struck in the arm, he helped wrestle the gunman to the floor, thwarting an attack that police fear could have turned deadly.
"The security guard here is a hero, in my opinion," D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said of Leo Johnson, who was conscious and in stable condition at an area hospital after the shooting.
Police and the FBI were investigating why the armed man, identified as 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins II of Herndon, Va., entered the front lobby of the conservative group, argued with the guard and opened fire. But one law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the suspect made a negative reference about the group's work and what it stands for before shooting.
Corkins was being held on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, the FBI said Wednesday night. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Corkins would likely appear in court Thursday but gave no further details.
Television news footage showed the suspect, a large man with a shaved head and an unbuttoned striped shirt, being led to a car with his hands restrained. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer. Corkins was carrying a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun that authorities have determined was purchased and owned legally, said Richard Marianos, special agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Washington field office.
Though authorities did not publicly reveal a motive, advocacy groups across the ideological spectrum condemned the violence, with some casting it as a hate crime. President Barack Obama was concerned about the well-being of the guard, a White House spokesman said, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also said he was appalled.
"Today's attack is the clearest sign we've seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as 'hateful' must end," Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement.
The Family Research Council, headquartered in a busy downtown tourist district, strongly opposes gay marriage and abortion and says it advocates "faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion." The group maintains a powerful lobbying presence on those causes, testifying before Congress and reviewing legislation. Its president, Tony Perkins, said the group's main concern was with the wounded guard.
Corkins, who had been volunteering recently at a community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, made a negative comment about the organization's activity before the shooting, but the reference was not specific, one of the law enforcement officials said. Two law enforcement officials said Corkins was carrying sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, a fast-food chain whose president's public opposition to same-sex marriage recently placed the restaurant at the center of a national cultural debate.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigating is continuing.
Johnson, who was taken to the hospital Wednesday, was expected to survive.
"The security guard did a phenomenal job, above and beyond what he was supposed to do in this particular situation," said Jacqueline Maguire, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office.