Nashville church shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Emanuel Samson/ Nashville Police Department

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A black man accused of fatally shooting a white woman and wounding six other people at a Tennessee church in September has pleaded not guilty through his attorney to charges in a 43-count indictment, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and felony civil rights intimidation.

On Wednesday, attorney Jennifer Thompson entered the plea on behalf of 26-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson during the arraignment on charges in the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ shooting in Nashville. Samson was not in court Wednesday and has not yet appeared in court.

Samson was indicted this month.

An arrest affidavit says Samson waived his rights and told police he arrived armed and fired at Burnette in September.

All of the victims in the church shooting were white, but authorities have not definitively said whether or not they believe Samson specifically targeted them based on their race. The indictment doesn’t specify which civil rights were infringed upon.

In October, Nashville Police Detective Steve Jolley testified that a note in Samson’s car referred to a white supremacist’s 2015 massacre at a South Carolina black church. Jolley said Samson told him he didn’t give much thought to race or religion, and heard voices and had visions.

No motive for the shooting was determined. Church members told investigators the Samson had attended services a year or two ago, said Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department. He reportedly came to the U.S. from Sudan in 1996 and became a U.S. resident.