WASHINGTON — A man suspected of shooting and wounding a security guard at the headquarters of a Christian lobbying group on Wednesday made a negative reference about the organization’s work before opening fire, a law enforcement official said.
Police said the man entered the front lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington around 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, began arguing with a security guard and then shot him in the arm. The gunman was subdued by the guard and others and taken into custody but had not been charged as of Wednesday evening.
Another law enforcement official identified the suspect as Floyd Corkins II, and authorities were interviewing Corkins’ neighbors in Herndon, Va., near Washington. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Corkins, 28, had been volunteering recently at a community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The Family Research Council strongly opposes gay marriage and abortion and says it advocates “faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion.”
Corkins made a negative comment about the organization before the shooting, but the reference was not specific, one of the law enforcement officials said.
The guard, Leo Johnson, was in stable condition and was being interviewed.
Corkins had been volunteering for about the past 6 months at The DC Center for the LGBT Community, said David Mariner, executive director of the community center, which is in Northwest Washington. He usually staffed the center’s front desk on Saturdays, and his most recent shift was about two weeks ago.
“He always struck me as a kind, gentle and unassuming young man. I’m very surprised that he could be involved in something like this,” Mariner said.
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.
“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’s president, Tony Perkins, said the organization’s primary concern was with the wounded guard.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president, who was traveling in Iowa Wednesday, was informed of the shooting shortly after 1 p.m.
“The president expressed his concern for the individual injured in the shooting and his strong belief that this type of violence has no place in our society,” Carney said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a statement that he was appalled. “There is no place for such violence in our society,” he said. “My prayers go out to the wounded security guard and his family, as well as all the people at the Family Research Council whose sense of security has been shattered by today’s horrific events.”
The headquarters of the FRC is in the city’s bustling Chinatown neighborhood, near the Verizon Center, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and several museums, restaurants and shops.
Amy Biondi and her husband Steve were visiting Washington from Long Island with their daughter and a friend and tried to ask officers for help with a parking meter when they were told there was a situation they had to deal with. The door to the FRC was opened, and an officer repeatedly shouted, “Put the gun down, put the gun down.”
“Next thing you know there are police officers swarming the area,” said Biondi, 45, a massage therapist from St. James, N.Y.
The family didn’t get a close look, but they said the man officers were talking to seemed to comply with the orders immediately.
In the past month, the FRC had forcefully defended Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy for his remarks in opposition to gay marriage, which brought the fast-food chain to the forefront of the nation’s culture wars.
Mariner said he did not know Corkins well or have any conversations with him about the Chick-fil-A controversy or other political issues of interest to the gay community.
“I really only talked to him about volunteering, so I couldn’t say anything about anything else,” Mariner said.
Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Washington and Matthew Barakat in Herndon, Va., contributed to this report.