An Antioch church became a crime scene after a tragic act of violence on Sunday.
One woman was killed and six others were hospitalized after police say a masked man attacked churchgoers at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ on Pin Hook Road.
Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, has been charged with one count of murder. Police said he shot and killed 38-year-old Melanie Crow in the parking lot as the church dismissed at 11:15 a.m. Sunday.
According to police, Samson then entered the sanctuary of the building through the front door. He came into the building with two pistols, both of which were recovered inside the church. He then allegedly fired multiple rounds inside the sanctuary, wounding six people.
There were 42 people at the church for services on Sunday, according to what church members told police.
According to the arrest affidavit, Samson spoke to police about what happened:During an interview of the defendant, following his signing of a rights waiver, he stated he arrived at the church at approximately 1055 hours. He also stated he was armed with a handgun and that he fired upon the church building.Samson was taken into police custody after being released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“Reducing violent crime is the number one priority of the District Attorney’s Office. We will dedicate all resources of this office toward fully prosecuting this case," District Attorney Glenn Funk said in a statement released on Monday. "Nashville should be a safe place to live and we should feel especially safe in our houses of worship."
A judicial commissioner has ordered that Samson be held without bond. His first court appearance will be on Wednesday morning, according to court records. Police said additional charges are pending against Samson, who lives in La Vergne.
Five other victims were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Two victims were taken to Skyline Medical Center.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, five victims were in stable condition at Vanderbilt. Two of the patients at Vanderbilt suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and torso areas. The other patients suffered gunshot wounds to their extremities.
Joey Spann, 60, is listed in stable condition at Vanderbilt.
William Jenkins, 83; Marlene Jenkins, 84; Peggy Spann, 65; and Linda Bush, 68, are all in stable condition at Vanderbilt.
Robert Caleb Engle and Catherine Dickerson were taken to Skyline Medical Center. Both have since been released from the hospital.
Church usher praised for heroism
Engle, an usher at the church, confronted Samson and engaged him in a struggle, which resulted in Engle being pistol-whipped. Samson's gun discharged during the struggle, striking him in the left chest.
"Mr. Engle is the hero," said Metro police spokesman Don Aaron at a press conference. "Mr. Engle saved countless lives here today. It could have been much worse."
After the scuffle, Aaron said Engle went to his car despite a head injury and retrieved a gun, forcing Samson to remain on the ground until police arrived.
Engle, 22, said in a statement that he didn't consider himself a hero.“I’ve been going to this church my whole life, since I was a small child. I would have never, ever thought something like this would have happened.
I ask everyone to pray for the victims, family members of the victims, our church community. Please pray for healing. Also, please pray for the shooter, the shooter’s family and friends. They are hurting as well.
I pray that through all of this that people will come to know Christ and I ask our nation to reflect on Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
When complimented about his heroism he stated:
I do not want to be labeled a hero. The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.
My hope is for privacy for all involved.”
Vigil held for church leader
On Sunday night, a vigil was held at Nashville Christian School where Joey Spann, the minister at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, is a Bible teacher and girls assistant basketball coach at the school. He previously taught and coached at Ezell-Harding Christian School and Goodpasture Christian School.
"In the wake of the shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, many from the NCS community came together tonight for a time of prayer and worship. We are thankful for all who have shown their support and prayed for NCS coach and teacher Joey Spann and his wife, Peggy. Both are recovering from surgery at Vanderbilt hospital and are in stable condition," read a statement released by the school. "Our hearts are broken for all of those who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy, and we will continue to keep everyone in our thoughts and prayers."
Victim describes scene inside church
Catherine Dickerson, who was shot in the leg, said her thumb-sized wound was so clean she didn’t even need stitches.
“I feel at peace. I may fall apart later,” Dickerson said.
“The fourth shot got me,” she added. “The bullet goes in right here, comes out right here.”
Dickerson said she went through two scenarios. One was the best-case scenario.
“I’m thinking, I think he passed me. I don’t think he’s going to kill me,” she said.
The other was the worst-case scenario.
“Or he could go come back and kill you, and then you go to heaven. So it’s really a win-win,” Dickerson said.
More details about the suspected gunman
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
"The Memphis FBI Field Office's Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division, and the US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ," said David Boling, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. "The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence."
Police said Samson was a native of Sudan and came to the United States in 1996. Samson is a legal U.S. resident, but police did not know if he was a citizen.
Police said four guns believed to be Samson's was recovered after the shooting. Two pistols were found inside the church, and a pistol and rifle were found in Samson's SUV.
Samson's Facebook account said he was a graduate of Smyrna High School.
Members of the church told police that Samson had attended the church a year or two ago but did not recognize him on Sunday because he was wearing a mask.
Police said Samson's vehicle was parked outside the church. Dogs had a hit on a possible explosive device in the car. The car was searched and deemed safe.
Police believe the dogs may have picked up a scent from the ammunition inside the car.
The FBI and ATF are assisting in the investigation. The Department of Justice is considering a Civil Rights investigation.
City, state leaders react to church shooting
Mayor Megan Barry called the shooting "a terrible tragedy for our city."
Metro Council members who represent the Antioch area released statements about Sunday's shootings.
“My heart and my prayers are with our neighbors at Burnette Chapel,” said Antoinette Lee, recently elected to represent the 33rd district, where the tragedy took place. “I am available to help this family of believers in any way I can as they now begin the difficult process of putting the pieces of their lives back together.”
Council Member at Large Bob Mendes, who is representing District 33 until Lee is sworn in, said: “I send my thoughts and prayers to the Burnette Chapel family. None of us can imagine the kind of terror that these worshipers must have suffered. We must rededicate ourselves as a city to stand for non-violence.”
Other Antioch-area council members also spoke out: Council Member Tanaka Vercher, District 28: “A tragedy like this shakes a community to its very core, and my heart and prayers are fully with those who worship at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. We join with you in your sadness, and we are united with you to stop this kind of violence.” Council Member Karen Johnson, District 29: “The Antioch community today comes together to embrace our friends at Burnette Chapel and to mourn with them and to pray with them. We join Mayor Megan Barry when she calls on the Nashville community to work and put a stop to this kind of violence.” Council Member Jason Potts, District 30: “My family and I send our heartfelt condolences and our prayers to the members of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. Our hearts ache at the thought of our neighbors being subjected to such terror. We stand ready to help any way we can.” Council Member Fabian Bedne, District 31: “Once again, a house of faith is targeted by violence, and worshipers are terrorized, with one losing her life. We stand and we mourn with the Burnette Chapel community. But we also call on all of Nashville to come together and work for real ways to stop gun violence.” Council Member Jacobia Dowell, District 32: “To our friends and neighbors at Burnette Chapel, we offer our thoughts and prayers as you deal with this horror in your midst. We in Antioch are a community rich in worship and faith, and while we grieve any violence, this hurts us deep within our hearts and souls.”Sen. Bob Corker and Sen. Lamar Alexander both issued statements on Twitter about the shooting.
Gov. Bill Haslam also issued a statement:
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in Arizona in 2011, released a statement about the shooting:I'm heartbroken to hear that once again a place for peace and prayer became a scene of horror and fear. My heart is with the people of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, their families, and the first responders who rushed to the scene.
Places like churches, schools, and neighborhood parks should always be safe spaces, where families and friends can gather without fear of violence. But that's not the America we're living in today. Shootings like the one that happened at the church in Tennessee this morning are occurring at an alarming rate: already this year there have been 264 mass shootings in America. This is not normal. This needs to stop. We've got to find the courage to face our nation's gun violence problem together and demand a safer future for our children.
WATCH: Air 4 flying to church shooting scene in AntiochList of recent church shootings in the United States: July 2006 - Naveed Haq broke into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and shot six people. There was one fatality He was sentenced to life in prison in 2010. August 2007 - In Neosho, Missouri, Eiken Elam Saimon shot up the First Congregational Church, killing three people. He was sentenced to life in prison. December 2007 - Matthew J. Murray opened fire in a Youth With A Mission training center in Arvada, Colorado. Then he went to the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and shot up a congregation. There were 4 fatalities in all, not including Murray who committed suicide soon after. July 2008 - Jim David Adkisson pulled out a shotgun at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. There were two deaths and seven injuries. He cited the church's "liberal teachings" as his reason for the shooting. Adkisson was sentenced to life in prison in 2009. August 2012 - Three people were murdered at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin outside Milwaukee when Wade Michael Page opened fire. The shooter committed suicide after reportedly injuring a police officer. April 2014 - At a Jewish community center outside Kansas City, known white supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross killed three people including a 14-year-old boy. Cross said he plans to plead guilty to avoid a long trial. None of the victims were Jewish. June 2015 - 21-year-old Dylan Roof attacked a historic black church in Charleston South Carolina. he entered a Bible study meeting and killed nine people. A jury sentenced him to death in January 2017, and he's now on death row in Terre Haute, Indiana
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