NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The man accused of opening fire inside a Tennessee church, killing one and injuring several others, has been charged with murder after confessing to authorities.
Late Sunday, the Civil Rights division of the FBI’s Memphis field office announced it was opening an investigation into the shooting.
According to police reports, Emanuel Kidega Samson sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for the church service to end. As everyone was leaving, he grabbed two guns and opened fire in the parking lot, killing 39-year-old Melanie Smith of Smyrna, Tennessee.
Inside church member Minerva Rosa said everyone was talking about the success of their yard sale the previous day when they heard gunshots. A minister, David Spann, 60, shouted, “Run, run, gunshots!” as congregants hid under pews or in bathrooms, according to a witness.
At that moment, Jeremiah Reese quickly took action to protect himself and those with him in another room of the church.
In an interview with The Tennessean, the brave 10-year-old described how he grabbed a couch, pushed it on its side and barricaded the group inside the room. With the the help of the others, they then pushed chairs, tables and anything else they could find against the doors, hoping it would be enough to keep the shooter out.
Gunfire continued to echo through the building as Samson made his way silently through the church. He shot six more people: Pastor Spann and his wife, Peggy Spann, 65; William and Marlene Jenkins, 83 and 84 respectively; Linda Bush, 68; and Katherine Dickerson, 64, before being subdued by a 22-year-old usher named Robert Engle.
Engle tackled the gunman and suffered injuries when he was pistol whipped. In the struggle, the shooter shot himself, although it wasn’t clear if it was on purpose or an accident. Engle retrieved his own gun from his car and held the man until police arrived, police said.
“He’s amazing,” church member member Minerva Rosa told reporters about Engle. “Without him I think it could be worse. He was the hero today.”
Thankfully, police said none of the surviving victims suffered life-threatening injuries, but the scene was described as “harrowing.”
“We saw piles and piles of casings. We saw blood on the carpet,” Reese told the news outlet.
Dickerson and Engle were released from the hospital Sunday, according to Metro Nashville Police Department. Five other victims are recovering at Vanderbilt hospital.
No motive was immediately 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.
Prior to the Sunday’s attack, Samson reportedly made several bizarre posts on social media.
“Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B,” he said in one.
Another post read, “Become the creator instead of what’s created. Whatever you say, goes.”
And a third post read, “You are more than what they told us.”
Police later recovered another pistol and a shotgun from the suspect’s vehicle.
During an interview, authorities said Samson confirmed he was armed with a handgun and that he opened fire on the building.
BREAKING: Samson will be charged with one count of murder tonight. Multiple additional charges will be placed later. pic.twitter.com/RBNv1qY3yk
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) September 24, 2017
Police records from Murfreesboro show that officers were dispatched to addresses associated with Samson at least four times in 2017 for reports of domestic violence and suicidal thoughts.
Samson said on social media that he had attended Mott Community College but the college says that is not true..
Nashville Christian School, where David Spann is listed as a coach, released a statement that read in part “Please lift up Coach Spann and his wife Peggy and all who have injured or impacted by this tragic event.”
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