Police have identified the gunman, a Sudanese immigrant, who shot a woman dead and injured six other churchgoers after he opened fire Sunday morning at a Tennessee church as services were ending.
The shooting at Burnett’s Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, started in the church’s parking lot, according to police and the Nashville Fire Department. Nashville Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said emergency calls came in around 11:15 a.m. as services were letting out.
The gunman, identified by police as 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson, arrived in the parking lot and first fatally fired at 39-year-old Melanie Smith, who was walking to her car, police said. Samson was wearing a neoprene half-mask and drove an SUV, Aaron said.
After gunning down the woman in the parking lot, Samson went inside through the rear of the church and began “indiscriminately shooting at people,” police said, wounding six people.
A church usher, identified as 22-year-old Robert Engle, ran up and confronted Samson and was subsequently pistol-whipped by him, police said. Samson was at some point shot in the left pectoral, though police still don’t know if the gun discharged on its own during Engle’s struggle with the suspect.
At that point, Engle went to his car, where he got his weapon to confront the shooter again.
Police said Samson had attended the church within the past two years. He has been released from a local hospital and will be charged with one count of murder, with additional charges to come.
The Memphis FBI Field Office’s Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Sunday.
All seven of the wounded were taken to area hospitals. Five of them were sent to Vanderbilt Medical Center and one to Skyline Medical Center.
Vanderbilt Medical Center said in a statement after the shooting that its emergency medicine physicians and trauma center surgeons are caring for two critically injured gunshot victims, and another four individuals who are currently in stable condition.
Nashville Christian School released a statement on Sunday, saying, “As you may already know, one of our Bible teachers, Joey Spann, and his wife were both injured in the church shooting this morning at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch. We do not have any additional information at this time but want to boldly ask you to pray. Please lift up Coach Joey Spann and his wife Peggy and all who have been injured or impacted by this tragic event.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry released a statement on Sunday: “This is a terrible tragedy for our city,” she said. “My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones. 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,” she added.
ABC News’ Ben Stein contributed to this report.
Also: Freaking Reddit.
And thank goodness for the Usher:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Metro Police have made it clear: more lives could have been lost Sunday if not for an usher’s quick, brave actions to stop a church shooter in Antioch.
Caleb Engle, age 22, stopped the suspect’s murderous rampage at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.
When the shooting started, Engle moved to confront the alleged gunman, Emanuel Samson. During the struggle Samson’s gun discharged, hitting Samson in the chest.
Engle, who had been pistol-whipped, then ran to his car to get his own gun and held Samson until police arrived.
“He’s the hero. He’s the person that stopped this madness,” said Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson.
Engle has been discharged from the hospital and released this statement, reading in part:
“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.”
One woman was killed and seven other people were hurt after a suspect identified as a Sudanese immigrant opened fire at a Tennessee church Sunday, police said, as the FBI confirmed it’s launched a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
The suspect, 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson, immigrated from Sudan two decades ago, police said. He’s suspected of bringing at least two pistols and a mask to the predominantly white Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, southeast of Nashville, before opening fire.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department tweeted that Samson had been released from the hospital and will be charged with murder and attempted murder.
Photos from a Facebook page under Samson’s name seemed to show him lifting weights and showing off his physique. A post earlier Sunday read: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.” Another post read, “Become the creator instead of what’s created. What you say, goes.”
Police have not commented on the Facebook posts.
“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 in Antioch, Tennessee. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence,” FBI Memphis told Fox News.
An usher, identified as Robert Engle, 22, confronted the gunman at one point and was pistol-whipped, causing “significant injury around his head,” police added. They said Engle went to his own car, grabbed a pistol and headed back into the church.
Law enforcement confirmed Samson is a legal U.S. resident who immigrated from Sudan in 1996.
It was initially reported that the gunman shot himself, although police said it’s unclear whether he shot himself or the gun unintentionally discharged during his scuffle with Engle.
Police said that Burnette Chapel churchgoers recognized Samson as attending their church one to two years ago, but noted he hadn’t attended services “in quite a while.”
The woman who was shot and killed in the church parking lot, identified as Melanie Smith, 39, was walking to her car when she was hit, police said.
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.
Katherine Dickerson, 64, was in stable condition at Skyline Medical Center. Engle was also being treated at Skyline.
Nashville Christian School wrote on Facebook that David Spann, nicknamed Joey, is a Bible teacher at the school, in addition to working as a high school and middle school basketball coach. Spann is reportedly a pastor at the Burnette Chapel.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson called Engle a “hero” for his actions at the church Sunday.
Several witnesses claimed the shooter was wearing a “clown mask” when he opened fire, but police said what he wore more closely resembled a ski mask.
Megan Barry, mayor of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, said in a statement that the shooting “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.”
Gov. Bill Haslam added that he and his wife, Crissy, were praying for the victims and “committed to supporting the Antioch community in the aftermath of this tragedy.”
The church has a weekly service starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. The surrounding area was closed off as police investigated the situation.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.