News & Politics

Police: Tennessee Church Shooter Left Note Referencing Dylann Roof Church Massacre

Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, of Murfreesboro, Tennesse. (Metro Nashville Police Department via AP)

The Sudanese man charged with opening fire on a Christian church in Tennessee on Sunday left a note in his car indicating that he was motivated by revenge, law enforcement officials told the Associated Press Friday.

The note referenced Dylann Roof’s massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, two years ago, CBS reported.

Emanuel Kidega Samson killed one woman and injured seven others during his shooting rampage at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, and would likely have killed more if not for the heroic efforts of the church usher, 22-year-old Robert Caleb Engle.

Samson was charged with murder and attempted murder and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI field office in Nashville quickly opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.

The Associated Press did not view the note, but two law enforcement officials read from it to reporters.

The report said that “in sum and in no way verbatim,” the note referenced revenge or retaliation for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine black worshipers at a South Carolina church in 2015 and has since been sentenced to death. It wasn’t clear what precisely Samson is alleged to have written about the Roof shooting, or whether his note contained other important details that might also speak to a motivation or state of mind.

The law enforcement officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to publicly discuss an ongoing investigation. Metro Nashville Police declined to comment, saying it had not released the information.

Wearing a “neoprene ski type mask” and a tactical vest, the suspect fatally wounded his first victim, Melanie Smith, 39, in the parking lot before he entered the church just after 11 a.m. Sunday. He then walked silently down the aisles with a .40-caliber handgun and shot six more people.

Metro Nashville Police say investigators recovered four guns after the shooting that were bought legally from in-state retailers: the 40-caliber handgun allegedly used in the shooting; a military-style AR-15 rifle found in a case in Samson’s vehicle; and a 9 mm handgun recovered from the church. Police say a relative gave the guns to Samson for safe keeping.

Police say Samson bought a .22-caliber pistol found in his SUV.

Smith’s daughter, Breanna, told CBS News that her mother was a caring woman who loved God.

“Everybody’s looking for why, why, why,” Breanna Smith said. “There’s no understanding evil. There’s no understanding hate.”

Church members told police investigators that Samson had attended services a year or two ago. He’s a legal U.S. resident who immigrated from Sudan in 1996, according to law enforcement officials.

On Facebook, Samson shared mostly bodybuilding pictures of himself, but also a few clues as to his mindset.

On February 26, he shared a video from Mic that claimed, “You’re more likely to be killed by a white man than a Muslim terrorist.”

And on March 2, he shared a video from Vox co-founder Ezra Klein warning viewers not to ignore the threat of “white extremism.”

In August, Samson shared a post that suggested blacks shouldn’t trust the police after an assistant chief of police had allegedly shared a racially insensitive meme.

Before his shooting rampage on Sunday, he made a series of cryptic Facebook posts. One read: “Become the creator instead of what’s created. What you say, goes.”Another said: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe [sic] as false, is real. & vice versa, B.”

According to CBS, police records indicate he had expressed suicidal thoughts back in June and “had a volatile relationship with a woman that twice involved police this year.”