On Thursday, we reported that ex-NFL player Phillip Adams took his own life after allegedly gunning down five others, including respected South Carolina doctor Robert Lesslie. As the surviving families struggle for answers, details are slowly trickling out that might explain why Adams resorted to such a shocking display of violence.
In an interview with Alex Giles of WBTV News, U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman explained that Lesslie had treated Adams and stopped prescribing him an undisclosed medication.
“Did you say that he was treating Adams?” Giles asks. “Or that it was your understanding that he had been treating Adams?”
“My understanding, he was treating him and stopped giving him medicine,” Norman says, citing local law enforcement officials. “And that’s what triggered the killings, from what I understand.”
As we reported at The Root, on Wednesday, Adams entered Lesslie’s Rock Hill residence and gunned down Robert, his 69-year-old wife, Barbara Lesslie, and his grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5.
Outside of the Lesslie’s home, James Lewis, 38, was found shot to death, and a sixth person, who has yet to be identified, is currently hospitalized with “serious gunshot wounds,” according to Trent Faris, a spokesperson for the York County Sheriff’s Office.
Shortly after midnight on Thursday, after authorities identified him as a suspect in the mass shooting, Adams took his own life with a .45 caliber weapon.
In the immediate aftermath of the murder-suicide, Adams has been described as “lost without football.” His agent, Scott Casterline, recalled how after being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2010, the defensive back suffered a gruesome ankle injury during his rookie season and struggled to preserve his health henceforth. After bouncing around the league and playing for six different teams, his NFL career came to an abrupt end in 2015.
“He had an injury his rookie year,” Casterline told the Associated Press. “Some teams wrote him off and he had that stigma of a guy who was hurt. His ability was better than a guy who bounced around a lot. All that weighed on him heavily. He had (six) years, a great career, but he felt he had more. It was hard for him to walk away from the game, especially a guy as dedicated as he was.”
Casterline continued, “We encouraged him to explore all of his disability options and he wouldn’t do it. He would isolate, but that’s who he was, so it wasn’t a big concern. 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, but he was really hard to follow because he would isolate.”
Adams’ father, Alonzo Adams, spoke to WCNC and offered his condolences to the surviving members of the Lesslie family.
“All I can say is we pray for the family,” he said. “[Robert Lesslie] used to be my doctor a long time ago. I know they were good folks down there. We’re gonna keep them in our prayers.”
Alonzo also expressed his suspicions that his son, who was diagnosed with at least two concussions and other notable injuries throughout the course of his six-year NFL career, could’ve been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy—more commonly known as CTE.
“I think the football messed him up,” Alonzo said of his son.
As we wait for an autopsy to confirm Adams’ father’s suspicions, we at The Root will keep both families in our thoughts and prayers. This is a tragedy for all parties involved, and once again raises concerns about not only gun control, but the health and safety of NFL players.