Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
Virginia man becomes first conviction under Washington, DC, anti-terror law
Family Research Council
The man who opened fire at a Washington, DC, conservative values organization’s offices in the District last August -- severely wounding a security guard, pleaded guilty to one terrorism charge and five other felonies on Feb. 6, becoming the first person to be convicted under the District’s anti-terror law.
Floyd Lee Corkins, II, 28, of Herndon, VA, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to charges of committing an act of terrorism while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. He’s slated for sentencing in late April and could face 70 years in prison if convicted on the terrorism, assault and weapons-related charges.
Corkins has been in custody since his arrest after the August 15, 2012 shooting.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia said the conviction marked the first time a defendant has been charged with and convicted of committing an act of terrorism under a provision of the District of Columbia’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002 that covers criminal actions committed with the intent to “intimidate or coerce a significant portion of the civilian population of the District of Columbia or the United States.”
According to evidence presented in court, the morning of August 15, Corkins entered the office of the Family Research Council in downtown Washington and encountered an unarmed security guard. Corkins pulled a handgun from his backpack and pointed it at the guard. The security guard charged Corkins and a struggle ensued in which Corkins fired three shots, striking the guard in the arm. Despite the gunshot wound and Corkins’ subsequent discharges of the gun, the security guard heroically succeeded in disarming the defendant and forcing him to the ground and onto his belly.
Corkins admitted he targeted the Family Research Council because of its views, including its advocacy against recognition of gay marriage. He entered the building with the intention of shooting and killing as many employees of the organization as he could.
“Were it not for the heroic guard who tackled Floyd Corkins, he could have succeeded in perpetrating a mass killing spree in the nation’s capital,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen. “This case highlights the dangers of access to high-capacity magazines that allow killers to inflict carnage on a mass scale in the blink of an eye. Today’s guilty plea makes clear that using violence to terrorize political opponents will not be tolerated.”
“Individuals such as Mr. Corkins who commit violent acts in pursuit of political aims are a danger to our society and to the freedoms we enjoy as citizens,” said Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
According to the court evidence, Corkins bought a semi-automatic pistol from a store in Virginia on August 9, 2012, and picked up the weapon the following day. On the afternoon of August 13, he rehearsed his planned trip to the Family Research Council. On the night before the shooting, Corkins returned to the gun store to do some target practice.
After the wounded security guard subdued him, according to court evidence, Corkinssaid , “It’s not about you,” but about the organization’s policies. He also was heard making remarks such as, “I don’t like these people, and I don’t like what they stand for.”
In a search after the shooting, Washington D.C. police officers found two fully loaded magazine clips in one of Corkins’ front pants pockets, and a handwritten list containing the names of the Family Research Council and three other organizations that openly identify themselves as having socially conservative agendas. A search of Corkins’ backpack turned up, among other items, a box of 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition. They also found 15 individually wrapped sandwiches that Corkins had purchased the previous day from Chick-fil-A.
Corkins later told the FBI he was a political activist and considered the Family Research Council to be a lobbying group. He also stated that he intended to kill as many people as possible and smother the Chick-fil-A sandwiches into their faces. Among other things, he said, “Chick-fil-A came out against gay marriage, so I was going to use that as a statement.”
Corkins also told the FBI the steps he took in planning the attack, saying he had been thinking about perpetrating similar violence for years but never carried out an attack. Had he not been stopped at the Family Research Council, he stated, he planned to go to the second organization on the list he was carrying and wage a similar shooting there.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the security guard, who also was the building’s manager, underwent emergency surgery in which metal plates were inserted into his left arm so that shattered bones could heal. Numerous bullet fragments remain in his arms, and he was unable to work for months.