Aug. 15, 2013
One year ago today, Floyd Corkins entered our Washington offices, lying about seeking a role as an FRC intern. Leo Johnson, our building supervisor, was at the security desk and asked to see some identification. Corkins bent down to ruffle through his backpack. Leo, sensing trouble, stepped out from behind the desk. Corkins pulled out a pistol and Leo, unarmed, advanced toward his would-be killer. Corkins shot Leo in the forearm, but seriously wounded, Leo grappled with him, and took Corkins’s gun away. Soon, Randy Burt and Charles Foster, bothFRC staffers, rushed to Leo’s aid. Corkins was subdued and held until Metropolitan Police arrived.
Why didn’t Leo take Corkins’s pistol and shoot him? Once he had disarmed his would-be killer, Leo could have shot the man in the head. There would be no jury on earth that would have convicted him. Chances are, Leo would not even have been charged.
It would be hard to imagine a more justifiable homicide. And if we were a hate group, as Corkins believed we were, a disarmed assassin could expect nothing less than to be cut down himself. Corkins had been incited to attack Family Research Council because of a “hate map” put out by the SPLC. They libeled us, saying we are no different than the Klan, than neo-Nazis, or the Aryan Brotherhood. Even after the attack, SPLC persists in so labeling FRC.
On that quiet August morning, Leo showed the best that is in us. Recovering from his serious wound—a process that has been long and painful for him and his family—Leo said he heard a still small voice tell him to spare Corkins’s life. Leo was raised in a Christian family. He has been a believer all his life. So this incredible act of mercy may have been second nature to this gentle giant.
Leo that day showed love. He even loved his enemy. “It’s not you, man, it’s this place. It’s your politics,” Corkins said as he was taken down. Leo has been my friend for many years and I still don’t know his politics. (He’s an Eagles fan, which is bad enough!)
I don’t need to know Leo’s politics. I know his heart. He showed his great heart that fateful day. So did Randy. So did Charles. And Leo the Lionheart also acted out the words of Jesus: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Corkins did not plan to stop with killing Leo. Leo was what stood between Floyd Corkins and mass murder. This would-be assassin had fifteen Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack. He planned to shoot as many of us at Family Research Council as he could and then drop a Chick-fil-A on each of our faces. Leo’s greater love is the reason this spectacular crime was averted.
I had occasion to talk about Leo and the August 15th attack last Sunday. After Chapel inAnnapolis, one of our new Navy Chaplains asked me where I work. I told him I have worked for many years at Family Research Council.
I could tell he was curious. I dispensed with the Inside-the-Beltway formulation of “a public policy research and educational organization recognized under Sec. 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.”
Instead, I said: “FRC believes that every one deserves a birth day. We believe that brides should marry grooms. And we believe that America is one nation under God. And for these beliefs, people are shooting at us.”
Put that way, Americans of every faith and every political persuasion may pause and think: Has it really come to this in our home of freedom?
It was the great Irish statesman Edmund Burke who saw the link between family and the nation. “We begin our affections in our family,” he wrote, “no cold relation was ever a warm patriot.” We see every day in random shootings, in brutal crimes, in the betrayals of a Bradley Manning or a John Walker Lindh, that American Taliban, the civil consequences of family breakdown.
FRC’s Leo Johnson showed his love in the most heroic way. We are urging mothers and fathers to marry, to cherish and nurture their children, for their own sake and for the sake of this land we love.