Christian doctor who wrote about presence of angels, fragility of life killed in SC mass shooting

A woman reads a note explaining the temporary closure of Riverview Family Medicine and Urgent Care after the fatal shooting of Dr. Robert Lesslie and four others the previous day on April 8, 2021 in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
A woman reads a note explaining the temporary closure of Riverview Family Medicine and Urgent Care after the fatal shooting of Dr. Robert Lesslie and four others the previous day on April 8, 2021 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. | Getty Images/Sean Rayford

Dr. Robert D. Lesslie, a 70-year-old physician who wrote books about the presence of angels, was killed along with his wife, Barbara, and two grandchildren in last week's mass shooting committed by former NFL player Phillip Adams. 

Adams, 32, went to the South Carolina home of Robert and Barbara Lesslie on Wednesday and shot them to death, The Associated Press cited police sources as reporting. 

Adams also reportedly shot to death the couple’s grandchildren — 9-year-old Adah Lesslie and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie. Additionally, 38-year-old air conditioning technicians identified as James Lewis and Robert Shook were also killed. 

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Though Shook was airlifted to Charlotte and underwent multiple surgeries in an attempt to save his life, he later died in the hospital. 

Adams was said to have killed himself on Thursday after police surrounded his parents’ home. 

Police said they weren’t sure why Adams attacked the Lesslies. What is known is that Adams’ father, Alonzo Adams, was one of Lesslie’s patients. 

“There’s nothing right now that makes sense to any of us,” York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson told reporters, according to AP. 

Adams joined the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 as a seventh-round draft pick out of South Carolina State. He played for six teams during his six-year career. He also played for the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and the Atlanta Falcons.

Tolson told reporters that even in their grief, the family said their “hearts are bent toward forgiveness and peace.” He added that the family is also praying for Adams’ family. 

As the author of Angels on the Night Shift and other books, angels were not just about halos and wings for Lesslie, who was the founder and medical director of Riverview House Calls and Riverview Hospice and Palliative Care. They are about going the extra mile for other people. 

He spoke with The Christian Post about his faith in 2012. The interview occurred after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December that year.

“What I write about is people and circumstances from a Christian viewpoint,” he told CP at the time. “When I talk about angels, there are some stories in my books that are otherworldly, but mainly, the angels are caretakers, nurses [and] family members themselves who go beyond what seems reasonable and really help people. They’ve helped patients, each other and me.”

“I think that there are things that happen beyond our earthly understanding and expectations,” he added. “When I’m asked about angels and miracles, it’s difficult to talk about. I can’t say that I’ve seen a miracle in that one minute a person has cancer and the next he doesn’t … but I’ve seen a miracle in a change of heart. A family came together after years of being separated, estranged. They came together at the worst time possible, and that was, to me, a miracle.”

He said that in his experience, the “Lord works in a lot of ways.” Some of those ways are mysterious while others are done through people and places, he said. 

“[W]e don’t understand or appreciate until you step back,” the doctor continued. “He did it through a stranger or friend at the right place at the right time.”

Referring to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which a 20-year-old man shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 and six adult staff members, Lesslie said there were “certainly demons.”

“Working in the ER, I've seen a side of our community that many are sheltered from,” he stated. “The shooting brought that home in a new way.” 

A memorial service for the Lesslies was held on Sunday, according to Lesslie's website. 

"We are truly in the midst of the unimaginable. The losses we are suffering cannot be uttered at this time," a statement released by Lesslie's four children reads. "While we know there are no answers that will satisfy the question 'why,' we are sure of one thing: we do not grieve as those without hope. Our hope is found in the promise of Jesus Christ, and we are enveloped by peace that surpasses all understanding."

Lesslie wrote over a dozen books, most of which consisted of “inspiring true stories” from his work as a doctor. 

In one of his books, Lesslie wrote that he knows “without a doubt that life is fragile.”

“I have come to understand that humility may be the greatest virtue,” he wrote. “And I am convinced we need to take the time to say the things we deeply feel to the people we deeply care about.”

Lesslie's second volume of Angels in the ER is set to be published in August. 

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