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Phillip Adams: Scientists will study brain of former NFL player who police say killed five people and then committed suicide

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said Wednesday that Phillip Adams, 32, shot two air conditioning technicians – killing one – outside the home of a prominent doctor in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

He then forcibly entered the home of Dr. Robert Lesslie. Lesslie, his wife and two grandchildren, aged 5 and 9, were killed inside.

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said Friday her office contacted Boston University to study Adams’s brain to see if he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

Scientists believe that CTE results from repeated head trauma.

In football, this can happen not only from hard hits that lead to concussions, but also from the constant clicking of the brain inside the skull that occurs during tackles and other games. These repeated hits are known as subconcussive hits and can lead to a build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.

CTE develops when the protein begins to clump around small blood vessels and in the valley of the cortex. From there, the protein spreads and destroys other parts of the brain. There is no cure for CTE.

Neurodegenerative disease causes Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, including mood swings, memory loss, and impulsive behavior. As the disease progresses, it can also lead to paranoia, dementia, and thoughts of suicide.

Adams played six seasons in the NFL. In 2012, he suffered two concussions in three games with the Oakland Raiders, his former agent told CNN earlier Friday.
Adams’ father Alonzo Adams told Charlotte WCNC television on Thursday that his son was a calm and good kid – but he believed football had taken its toll.

Shooting doesn’t make sense, said the sheriff

Authorities said they were unsure why Adams broke into Dr Lesslie’s home before shooting him, his wife and two grandchildren.

Air conditioning technician James Lewis, of Gastonia, North Carolina, was found dead outside.

Surviving technician Robert Shook is not in surgery, according to a Facebook post from his daughter Thursday night. Her father is in intensive care on a ventilator, she wrote.

She said she could see him and he had “a very long way ahead of him.”

Adams was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a bedroom of a house, about half a mile away, which he shared with his parents.

Phillip Adams: Scientists will study brain of former NFL player who police say killed five people and then committed suicide

Sheriff Tolson said it was unclear why Adams brought two guns to the Lesslie property in Rock Hill, a town of 74,000 people just across the Charlotte, North Carolina border.

“There’s nothing about it right now that doesn’t make sense to any of us,” Tolson said.

A statement from the doctor’s four children said the family was facing unimaginable loss.

“While we know that there are no answers that satisfy the question ‘why’, we are sure of one thing: we do not cry like those without hope. Our hope is in the promise of Jesus Christ, and we are enveloped in peace that surpasses all understanding, ”the statement said.

Lesslie was a “pillar in the community,” Tolson said of the doctor, who served as a supervising physician and medical director at Winthrop University, and founded a hospice and home physician service.

Phillip Adams: Scientists will study brain of former NFL player who police say killed five people and then committed suicide

“He has treated me in the past in his clinic… he knew everyone, he treated everyone with respect,” Tolson recalls.

Winthrop University President George Hynd said Lesslie’s contributions to the school were very varied.

“Students, in particular, have long benefited from referrals to his practice when additional care was needed beyond our reach,” Hynd said in a statement. “Personally, I will be forever grateful to him for the advice and guidance he provided to our COVID-19 response team when we opened the campus last fall to residential living and learning.

Lots of questions, few answers

“We probably have more questions on this matter than you do,” the sheriff told reporters on Thursday.

Something Adams left at the house led investigators to believe he was the shooter, and they proceeded to the nearby Adams family home, Tolson said.

Officers removed the parents from the house and attempted to contact Adams. They eventually found him dead, Tolson said, although they did not hear gunshots.

When asked if Adams, who played in the NFL from 2010 to 2015, was a doctor’s patient, Tolson replied, “We haven’t been able to verify this.”

Adams played for several NFL teams

Adams played as a defensive back from 2010 to 2015 for teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons.

He had five interceptions and 121 tackles in 78 games, according to He also fired 37 punts with the Raiders and 49ers.

Adams played at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg before his days in the NFL. He attended Rock Hill High School in his hometown, according to a SCSU track and field media guide.

CNN’s Nadia Kounang, Kay Jones, Christina Maxouris, Joe Sutton, Devon Sayers and Justin Lear contributed to this report.


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