(August 23, 2012) Erica Reed was astounded when she answered the phone. Leonardo R. Johnson, her 46-year-old her boyfriend, had taken a bullet on the job.

“I was in denial,” Reed, speaking from Johnson’s mother’s home in Southeast Washington, said of her reaction when officials from the Family Research Council (FRC) called her. “I was just saying ‘No, not him.’”

A week after the shooting though, the 37-year-old Reed and Johnson’s family are breathing a collective sigh of relief now that Johnson is recovering.

“He’s in good spirits and as long as he’s doing good, we’re doing good,” she said.

On Aug. 15, 28-year-old Herndon, Va. resident, Floyd Lee Corkins II, allegedly walked into the FRC offices at 801 G St N.W. in downtown Washington armed with a Sig Sauer 9mm and twoadditional magazines loaded with 9mm ammunition. According to federal authorities, a witness told them that Corkins shouted “I don’t like your politics.”
Johnson, whose spent the last 13 years working for the FRC, was working his daily three hours as security guard as part of his job as the building facilities manager. An FBI affidavit says surveillance footage then shows Corkins speaking with Johnson before, reaching into his backpack, pulling out his pistol and firing at Johnson, hitting him in the arm. Johnson, despite being wounded, rushed Corkins disarming him and subduing him.

In the meantime, another security guard called 911 and D.C. Metropolitan Police (MPD) officers responded to the scene. MPD officers detained Corkins and began the investigation by examining his backpack. According to the affidavit, they found an additional 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

Andrew Ames, spokesman with the FBI, said that the federal authorities were contacted by MPD early in the investigation. He said federal authorities arrived on the scene shortly after MPD did and began a joint investigation. After determining that Corkins may have violated federal laws, the FBI took the investigation over.

The FRC is a conservative group that has drawn headlines for stances it has taken on same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and television programming. The group’s stances have drawn the ire of many liberal groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC has labeled the FRC a hate group because “it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender (LGBT) people,” senior fellow Mark Potok said in a statement.
That label, according to FRC President Tony Perkins gave Corkins reason to attack his organization.

“Let me be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday,” Perkins told reporters on Aug. 16. “But Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy.”

It’s apparently a debate that Corkins felt strongly about. According to the affidavit, Corkins’ parents told FBI agents that he had strong opinions against those he believes unfairly treat homosexuals. There was no answer at the Corkins home and a man who answered the phone at the Corkins’ residence declined to comment.
That debate was not lost on Reed either. She said that even Johnson knew the politics of the organization he worked for and the attention it drew.

“In every job you have you know the risk,” she said. “But nothing even remotely close to this had ever happened before.”

From the law enforcement angle, with such incidents popping up more frequently, Ames said the FBI is communicating more with members of the community.
In the meantime, Johnson had successful surgery last week and Reed says he is doing well. Neither the family nor the FRC will comment on whether Johnson has been released from the hospital citing privacy concerns.

On Aug. 16, Corkins was charged with interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, a federal offense, along with the District of Columbia offense of assault with intent to kill while armed. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison on the federal charge and 30 years on the District charge. A mandatory five years in prison comes with the District’s charge.

Corkins was also ordered to undergo a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. Authorities were unable to confirm whether that had already taken place, but Bill Miller, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia said such evaluations usually take place within 24 hours of the order given.
Corkin’s next appearance in court is slated for Aug. 24.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO