NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jurors on Thursday heard jail calls in which a suspect charged with fatally shooting a woman and wounding seven people at a Nashville church in 2017 laughs about it with his then-girlfriend.
The October 2017 calls were replayed in court Thursday in the Nashville trial of 27-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson. Jurors began deliberating in the afternoon and will resume Friday.
A transcript of the calls shows Samson said he heard the shooting victims saying “some funny (expletive)” when he was on the floor of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in September 2017 after being shot during a tussle with a churchgoer.
Samson says in one of the calls that he and his then-girlfriend are able to “look at the humor in any situation.”
“When I put the two bullets in my chest and laid down and I was on the floor and I could hear what everyone was saying and some people were saying some funny (expletive) bruh and, I was like, if Maya were here listening to y’all’s whack (expletive), bruh,” Samson said in one call.
Samson also says in the calls that he wanted to intimidate jail guards, adding that he has an “intense African look.” And the couple also brag about how good Samson looked in news coverage.
“Big sexy hashtag, hashtag,” Samson said in that call.
Prosecutors played the calls to rebut Samson’s previous testimony denying such comments.
Defense attorney Jennifer Lynn Thompson said the calls that prosecutors played were just a handful of 1,500 that Samson made. She pointed out how quickly Samson was speaking in the calls, saying he sounded manic.
Prosecutors said the calls indicate Samson wasn’t suicidal that day; the defense argued the exact opposite.
“It is amazing that only one person lost their life in this,” Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore said in closing arguments. “It is not so amazing that that one person who didn’t lose their life in this was Emanuel Samson.”
The shooting rampage killed 38-year-old Melanie L. Crow of Smyrna, Tennessee. She was shot in the church parking lot while heading to her car to get a cough drop, and dropped her Bible and notes from the worship ceremony that had just concluded, Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter said.
Prosecutors are seeking life without parole for Samson, who has been charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in a 43-count indictment.
Samson is black and the victims are white. Samson left a note about a 2015 shooting massacre at a South Carolina black church and aimed to kill at least 10 white churchgoers in revenge, Hunter said.
Hunter has explained that a note in Samson’s car cited white supremacist Dylann Roof’s massacre at a black church in Charleston in 2015. It also referred to the red, black and green Pan-African flag, sometimes called RBG.
“Dylann Roof is less than nothing,” the note read, according to Hunter. “The blood that 10 of your kind will shed is that of the color upon the RBG flag in terms of vengeance.” The note included an expletive and ended with a smiley face, Hunter said.
Thompson described the note as the ramblings of someone with schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder who was having hallucinations.
Samson testified that he didn’t remember committing the crime. He said his mental health disorders have caused lapses in memory and constant shifts from feelings of ecstasy to the thoughts of suicide he said he experienced the morning of the shooting. He said he’s on medication now in jail and his thoughts have “slowed down drastically.”
“He went to the church because he was struggling that day, because he remembered the Christianity there, he remembered the people there, and he was hoping that somebody there would do something to try to stop him,” Thompson said in closing arguments.
Prosecutors have said Samson was conveniently choosing which details he could recall.
“It’s just an easy way, I submit, of getting out of answering the hard questions,” Moore said.