The sister of former NFL defensive back Philip Adams, who authorities say killed five people in Rock Hill, S.C., before turning the gun on himself, says he suffered debilitating mental illness for years.
“His mental health degraded fast and terribly bad,’’ Lauren Adams told USA Today about her brother. “There was unusual behavior. I’m not going to get into all that (symptoms). We definitely did notice signs of mental illness that was extremely concerning, that was not like we had ever seen. He wasn’t a monster. He was struggling with his mental health.”
On Thursday (April 8), Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, his wife, Barbara, 69, and their grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, were all found dead at home, the coroner’s office said. Another man, James Lewis, of Gaston, South Carolina, was found shot dead outside the house, and another unidentified individual was hospitalized with “serious gunshot wounds,” the Associated Press reported.
After a standoff with police in his mother’s home down the street from the shooting site, from which his mother was safely extracted, Adams was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Adams, 33, played in the NFL from 2010 to 2015 for several teams, starting with the San Francisco 49ers and ending his pro career with the Atlanta Falcons. While with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, he suffered two concussions over three games. It is unclear what role, if any, the concussions played in his mental health.
But Lauren Adams said her brother, who didn’t show signs of violent behavior, was becoming more aggressive.
“In conversations, it would escalate to arguments,’’ she told USA Today. “Normally it would just be a normal conversation. His temperament had changed where he was super laid back forever and all of the sudden he had that temper. You could just tell that something was off.”
Adams’ father, Alonzo, blamed football for his son’s problems. Speaking to local Charlotte, N.C., station WCNC, he said, “I think that football messed him up.”
Lauren, believing her brother’s mental health issues are linked to his time in the NFL, said that after his career ended, he lost interest in the sport and avoided any part of it.
“He really didn’t want anything to do with football,’’ she explained. ’’He didn’t watch it. If we were watching it, he would leave the room or ask us to turn it off.”
Adams, she said, would disappear for months at a time, which was unusual behavior because he had always been close to his family. Recently he had moved in with his family from Fort Mill, S.C. But she also believes that he was seeing a therapist and seeking other treatment for mental health issues.
Still, as time went on, she could see the negative change in her brother.
“He’s always been into looking nice,’’ said Adams. “Like he’s always been like a ladies man. He stopped dating. It was just a lot [of] things that were part of his character that just disappeared.
“So many people come up to me or call me or text me and ask me, ’What’s going on with your brother?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ “
Adams had tried to apply for disability benefits from the NFL but found it difficult to get help from the league.
“He felt like they were just trying to nickel and dime him,” Lauren Adams said. “I think he got upset about that and that’s kind of where it started, with him kind of feeling like the whole world was against him.’’
The NFL has been the subject of lawsuits from Black players who have accused the league of discriminating against them regarding dementia-related claims.
Two Black ex-players — Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport—filed a federal lawsuit against the league in August 2020, saying it “explicitly and deliberately” discriminated against Black players who have sustained brain injuries or suffer dementia linked to taking hits during their football careers.