Nashville church shooting: Masked gunman kills woman, injures seven in Antioch, police say

A former pastor says he is stunned after hearing of a shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee.

One person was killed and seven others wounded Sunday after a man in a ski mask opened fire during at a church service in Antioch.

The shooter, identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, a 25-year-old Rutherford County man, accidentally shot himself after he was confronted by an armed member of the congregation and treated at the hospital. He has since been released and is being taken to jail, according to Metro Nashville Police. 

He will be charged with one count of murder, additional charges will come later, police said. Police say he previously attended the church.

The woman has been identified as Melanie Smith, 39. Smith was a mother who lived in Smyrna.

Police say the gunman wore a neoprene ski mask when he shot and killed a woman in the parking lot of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, as the service was ending shortly after 11 a.m.

With his blue Nissan Xterra still running, the gunman then entered the rear sanctuary doors of the church and began "indiscriminately" shooting, police said.

Among those shot were three men and three women, police spokesman Don Aaron said.

The church's minister Joey Spann and his wife were both injured in the shooting, said Nashville Christian School in a statement on Facebook. Spann is a Bible teacher and a high school and middle school basketball coach.

Shooter confronted by church usher

Churchgoer Caleb Engle, who was hailed by police as a "hero," confronted the shooter while inside the church and was violently pistol whipped, Aaron said. During the confrontation with Engle, the gunman shot himself in the left side of his chest, Aaron said. Shortly after the shooting, the gunman was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, he said.

After the struggle, the usher exited the sanctuary, got a gun from his vehicle and guarded the shooter until police arrived, Aaron said.

About 42 people were inside the church at the time of the shooting, officials say. All victims, including the shooter, were taken to the area hospitals.

Two of seven victims in critical condition

Minerva Rosa, who was inside the church during the shooting, said she began applying pressure to the minister's chest while waiting for authorities to arrive. As the shooter entered the church, Rosa said, Spann shouted, "Run."

Although congregants attempt to run away, some were shot from behind, said Rosa, who had blood on her blue dress and cell phone case. "Our church is senior people. They didn't make it out."

A spokesman for Vanderbilt University Medical Center said two of the victims are critically injured, with four others in stable condition. 

In addition to the Spanns, police identified the victims as William Jenkins, 83, Marlene Jenkins, 84, Linda Busch, 68, Katherine Dickerson, 64 and Robert Engle, 22, the usher. Police identified one of the victims as David Spann — his colleague Mike McPherson confirmed that Spann's full name is David Joseph Spann.

All victims were in stable condition, with the exception of David Spann, who was in critical-stable condition, authorities said.

"The two critical patients suffered gunshot wounds to (their) chest and torso," said John Howser, spokesman for the hospital. "The four other patients suffered gunshot wounds to their extremities."

Motive unclear in shooting

After identifying the shooter, who had two pistols, in the afternoon, police said Samson was a legal U.S. resident but not a U.S. citizen, who came from Sudan in 1996.

Samson was medically cleared for release by Sunday afternoon and was set to be arrested and charged with homicide and attempted homicide.



Although it's unclear if race or religion played a role in the shooting, authorities, including the federal Justice Department, have opened a civil rights case.

Samson, who is black, alluded to an attack Sunday morning, posting cryptic messages on Facebook. 

Bloody scene described by witnesses 

Witnesses at the scene described the bloody aftermath of the shooting.

Joe Love, 67, and his wife Donna Love, 56, who live across the street from the church said they initially heard the shots but thought it was a nearby car crash.

"All of the sudden this man and woman came up to the porch," Joe Love said.

Love walked over to the church with the man and the woman and saw a deceased woman lying in the parking lot. Love also said he saw an elderly man with a walker lying on the ground, adding he had apparently been knocked down by the shooter.

The woman who approached Love initially identified herself as the sister of the deceased woman. Love and the sister covered up the victim with two towels.

"He shot her like she was a damn dog in his backyard," Love said.

A sad day for a small church

Shortly after 1 p.m. a bomb squad on the scene could be seen removing a black plastic case that appeared to be the size of a rifle from the shooter's vehicle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also at the scene.

The church, which has a weekly service at 10 a.m., is located at 3890 Pin Hook Road, a two-lane road lined with one story, single-family homes and old-growth trees, near Percy Priest Lake.

The shooting quickly sent shockwaves throughout the neighborhood. Steven Whidby, who lives about six houses from the church, said he's known the minister his whole life.

"It’s just a lil' country church," he said. "It’s just a sad day when people do something like that at a church."

After the shooting, the usually quiet area was suddenly transformed, being shut down by authorities, as police tape was draped around the scene with helicopters hovering overhead.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. Natalie Allison, Anita Wadhwani and Andrew Nelles contributed to this report.



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