A chaotic scene inside a Tennessee church can only be described by witnesses and police as a masked attacker armed with two guns shot seven people, killing one before he was subdued. Witnesses report that the 60 year old church pastor, David Spann shouted, “Run, run, gunshots!” as congregants hid under pews or in bathrooms.
According to police, after fatally shooting a woman outside a masked gunman carrying two guns entered the church from the back. The gunman then silently walked through the church, shooting six more people before he was subdued by an usher. Police later retrieved another pistol and a shotgun from the suspect’s vehicle.
Also according to authorities, a 22-year-old usher named Robert Engle, tackled the gunman and suffered injuries as a result of being assaulted with a weapon. In the struggle, the shooter shot himself, although it is unclear if it was on purpose or an accident. At that moment, Engle was able to retrieve his own gun from his car and held the man until police arrived.
The attacker is identified as 25 year old Emanuel Kidega Samson of Murfreesboro, who came to the United States from Sudan in 1996 and is a legal U.S. resident. WRAL News reports, church members told investigators the suspect had attended services a year or two ago.
The gunman pulled into the church’s parking lot as services were ending, when he fatally shot 39 year old Melanie Smith of Smyrna, Tennessee. The church’s first lady, Spann’s wife, 65 year old Peggy, was also shot as well as 83 year old William and 84 year old Marlene Jenkins, 68 year old Linda Bush and 64 year old Katherine Dickerson.
In regards to the other victims, police are saying none of the surviving victims suffered life-threatening injuries. Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department called Engle “an extraordinarily brave individual.”
However in a statement Engle said “The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.” Engle asked for prayers for all those injured as well as the shooter.
According to Aaron, forty-two people were at the church at the time of the shooting. On Sunday night authorities charged Samson with one count of murder and said multiple charges were pending.
Samson was ordered held without bond by a judicial commissioner. As for the church, after the attack the nearby New Beautiful Gate Church opened its doors to Burnette Chapel churchgoers as they reunited with loved ones.
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