A gunman identified as a Sudanese immigrant opened fire at a Christian church in Tennessee on Sunday, killing one woman and injuring seven others, the Nashville Metro Police Department said.
Wearing a “neoprene ski type mask” and armed with two guns, the suspect fatally wounded his first victim, Melanie Smith, 39, in the parking lot before he entered the predominantly white Burnett’s Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, TN, just after 11 a.m.
An FBI field office in Nashville and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Via Fox News:
The gunman, with his blue vehicle still running in the parking lot, then entered the back of the church and shot six people – three women and three men – who were rushed to the hospital, police said.
Police identified those being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and in stable condition as: William Jenkins, 83; Marlene Jenkins, 84; Peggy Spann, 65; and Linda Busch, 68. David Spann, 60, was also being treated at Vanderbilt, but was listed as in critical but stable condition.
— Dan Kennedy 13News Now (@13DanKennedy) September 24, 2017
A seventh person — the church usher — was pistol-whipped in the head when he confronted the gunman.
“This is a mass casualty situation,” the Nashville Fire Department tweeted. “All of the wounded have been transported to area hospitals. The majority are older adults.”
The suspect, Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries after shooting himself during a struggle with the church usher. He has since been transported to jail and charged with murder and attempted murder.
BREAKING: Alleged church shooter Emanuel Kidega Samson is being transported to jail. pic.twitter.com/Hdhzt5dkh4
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) September 24, 2017
An eyewitness who lives next to the church said that Samson shot Melanie Smith in the back, then rolled her over and shot her in the face.
— Josh Breslow (@JoshBreslowWKRN) September 24, 2017
Samson is a legal U.S. resident who immigrated from Sudan in 1996, law enforcement officials confirmed.
According to police spokesman Don Aaron, the suspect attended the church for a short period of time a year or two ago.
— Josh Breslow (@JoshBreslowWKRN) September 24, 2017
A motive has not yet been released, but the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
— Matthew Torres (@NC5_MTorres) September 24, 2017
Officers were called to the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch about 11:15 a.m. for a report of an active shooter, police said. They found the suspect being held at gunpoint by the usher and several victims in need of medical attention, along with a woman who had suffered a fatal gunshot wound in the church’s parking lot.
“The two critical patients suffered gunshot wounds to (their) chest and torso. The four other patients suffered gunshot wounds to their extremities,” John Howser told The Tennessean.
A seventh shooting victim was hospitalized at another medical center and his or her condition is not known. And the usher, who was pistol whipped after confronting the shooter, was also hospitalized with a head injury that is not life-threatening, according to police.
Police said there were about 50 adults inside the church when the shooting started.
“The gunman was wounded by a self-inflicted shot,” Aaron said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon. “One of the church members, upon seeing the gunman doing this action inside the church, ran up and confronted him. He was pistol-whipped by the gunman,” Aaron told reporters.
The man who confronted the armed bodybuilder was 22-year-old Robert Caleb Engle, the church usher. Aaron called him an “exceptionally brave individual.” Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said“he’s the hero. He’s the one who stopped this madness. We’re very, very grateful to him.”
This BAMF Hero, Robert Caleb Engle, Took Down The Antioch Church Shooterhttps://t.co/xULCNYjfyO
— Blue Lives Matter (@bluelivesmtr) September 25, 2017
After being pistol-whipped, Engle ran to his car and retrieved his gun. He held Samson at bay until the police arrived.
The brave usher can be credited with not only saving lives, but with preventing Samson — who had kept his car engine running in the parking lot — from making a get-away.
Engle was hospitalized with a head wound but the injury was not life threatening,police said.
His grandmother, Rheta Engle, said her grandson really cares about people, the Tennessean reported.
“That’s like him,” Rheta said. “He’s just someone who cares about a lot of people. He has all their feelings at heart…. It would make any parent, grandparent very, very proud of him.”
Robert Langford, a friend of Engle’s, described him to the Tennessean as “a gentle giant.”
“He’s such a great guy,” Langford said. “Just one of the kindest human beings you’ll ever meet.”
Engle often posts about his love of faith, family and the 2nd Amendment on Facebook. He explained his support for the Second Amendment with a meme he posted on Facebook on September 15:
Engle released the following statement on Sunday:
— Josh Breslow (@JoshBreslowWKRN) September 25, 2017
Photos from the Facebook page of a Emanuel K. Samson from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, show him lifting weights and showing off his physique.
A post on Sunday said: “Become the creator instead of what’s created. What you say, goes.”
Police have not commented on the Facebook posts.
Samson has numerous posts on social media about being a bodybuilder, according to Heavy.
Samson competed in the NPC men’s physique competition at Music City Muscle in November 2016.
He wrote on Facebook in June, “Art of bodybuilding and having the luxury of playing a role in how you look. Expressions on canvas. .every muscle fiber has it’s own life experience that’s a part of one whole bigger image – a walking autobiography.”
He graduated from Motlow State Community College in 2013 with an associate’s degree in psychology, according to his Indeed resume. He said at the time he was interested in pursuing a career as a counselor.
“To better prepare myself as I continue in the field of psychology by strengthening my community skills while counseling, advising, and guiding individuals/groups either spiritually, emotionally, and mentally; all while pursuing official licensing of a deemed psychologist,” he wrote. “Great communication skills. Trilingual in the following languages: English, Arabic, and Acholi (tribal language). Excellent memory. Can multitask if needed.”
He has held several jobs, including as a driver for Papa John’s pizza in Lavergne, Tennessee, a cook at Your Burger in Smyrna and a courtesy clerk at Kroger in Lavergne.
There are few clues on his social media accounts that point to either religious or racial hatred. He has, in fact, in the past posted positive sentiments about Christianity on Facebook.
In February 2010, he wrote, “Ready to get Baptised:) [only ONCE,unlike sum ppl].” A day earlier, he wrote, “i dont need to change myself before i come to Christ,cause Christ came into me and CHANGED ME..” Samson was a high school senior at the time.
After he graduated from high school in May of 2010, he wrote that he was considering being a preacher.
But a lot can change in seven years.
In his very last post before he went on his shooting rampage Sunday, Samson wrote: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.”