A masked gunman opened fire at a Nashville church on Sunday killing one and injuring six others. He has now been identified as 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson, a Sudanese-born bodybuilder, and has been charged with murder.
A married mother-of-two, 39-year-old Melanie Crow Smith of Smyrna, died at the scene and another six were injured when Emanuel opened fire at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, 30 minutes southeast of Nashville in Antioch, as services let out at 11.15 a.m.
The attack only stopped after a brave church usher, Robert Engle, 22, ran up to wrestle with the gunman and despite being repeatedly pistol-whipped in the head, was able to force Samson to shoot himself in the leg. Then he went to his car, grabbed his pistol, and returned to hold the shooter at gunpoint until the police department arrived.
The hero of the day, Engle, whose two passions appear to be God and guns, according to his Facebook page, was taken to TriStar Skyline Medical Center along with the last shooting victim. The church usher, a former warehouse worker, lives in Mount Juliet, Tennessee.
Church parishioners said pastor Joey Spann and his wife Peggy Spann were also both shot. The injured were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A spokesman for Vanderbilt University Medical Center said two of the victims are critically injured, with four others in stable condition. All six patients are adults – three men and three women.
“The two critical patients suffered gunshot wounds to (their) chest and torso,” John Howser, spokesman for the hospital, told the newspaper. “The four other patients suffered gunshot wounds to their extremities.”
The shooter’s condition is not life-threatening and he is under heavy police guard at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Police say that Samson, originally from Khartoum, Sudan but who now lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was spotted in the parking lot wearing a mask before he shot dead Smith.
“A gunman wearing a neoprene mask arrived in the parking lot and one woman who was walking to her vehicle was immediately fatally wounded by the gunman,” Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said at a press conference.
The gunman, who went to Smyrna High School before studying psychology at Mott Community College, arrived to the church in a blue SUV then entered the church through a main sanctuary door and began firing multiple rounds. Before he went on the rampage, Samson made a number of cryptic Facebook posts on Sunday morning.
In one post, he wrote:
“Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.”
In another, he wrote:
“Become the creator instead of what’s created. Whatever you say, goes.”
Samson’s public records do not list any criminal charges against him. He had lived in Rutherford County and in South Nashville near Burnette Bethel Church of Christ. Police are not aware of any relationship between Samson and the church or parishioners, Aaron said during the first press conference. Approximately 50 people were inside the church at the time of the shooting, officials say. All of those wounded in the shooting except for one person is over the age of 60.
“This is a mass casualty situation. All of the wounded have been transported to area hospitals. The majority are older adults,” the fire department tweeted.
Former Burnette Chapel Church of Christ pastor Bill Hunter said:
“I’m just absolutely stunned, I can’t believe that someone would come in off the street and start shooting.”
Mayor of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Megan Barry issued a statement about the shooting, saying:
“This is a terrible tragedy for our city. My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones.”
She continued in the statement: “Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. My administration, especially the Metro Nashville Police Department, will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution, and promote non-violence.”