WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who planned a mass shooting at the headquarters of a conservative Christian lobbying group in Washington last year was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison for the plot that injured a security guard.
Floyd Corkins II was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition during the shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council. He later told authorities he planned to kill as many people as possible and to smear the sandwiches in his victims’ faces as a political statement.
Chick-fil-A was making headlines at the time because of its president’s opposition to gay marriage, and the Family Research Council also opposes gay marriage.
During a sentencing hearing Thursday, Corkins apologized to the Family Research Council and the security guard he injured.
“I realize resorting to violence to achieve a political end is never OK,” he said, adding that he still disagrees with the Family Research Council, whose president and a number of employees were in the courtroom.
The guard Corkins shot in the arm, Leo Johnson, also attended. He looked Corkins in the eye in court and told him he forgave him, telling Corkins that God had saved both of their lives on the day of the shooting. Johnson, who was unarmed, wrestled the gun away from Corkins and had an opportunity to shoot him but didn’t.
After the hearing, Johnson said he would have preferred to see Corkins get more prison time but was “very pleased” and “satisfied” with the judge’s sentence.
Throughout the hearing, there were mentions of Monday’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, in which a lone gunman killed 12 people before being killed himself in a gun battle with police. Prosecutor T. Patrick Martin compared Corkins’ plan to that shooter’s, saying Corkins was no less determined and no less prepared. He credited Johnson with preventing Corkins from carrying out his plan.
The president of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, also spoke. He said that but for Johnson’s actions, the shooting “might have ended like the tragic shooting in the District of Columbia earlier this week.” He said that employees now pass by armed guards on their way to work.
Before sentencing Corkins, the judge overseeing the case, Richard W. Roberts, the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, said Corkins had planned the shooting on Aug. 15, 2012, rehearsing how he would get to the headquarters. He credited Johnson with averting the “carnage” and said that the way “positive change” happens in America is not through violence.
Roberts sentenced Corkins to less than the 45 years prosecutors had asked for. But it was more than twice the sentence Corkins’ lawyer, David Bos, had suggested.
Bos said his client receiving treatment for a mental illness at the time of the shooting and that an 11 1/2 year sentence was appropriate. On Thursday, Bos described the case as a “tragedy” and a case about “too easy access to firearms.” Corkins, who was receiving mental health treatment, bought a gun days before the shooting. Corkins pleaded guilty in February to interstate transportation of a firearm, assault with intent to kill while armed and committing an act of terrorism while armed.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)