Gunman in Tennessee church shooting ID'd as Sudan immigrant

By Allen Cone and Elizabeth Shim  |  Sept. 24, 2017 at 3:27 PM
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Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A masked gunman who killed a woman and injured six others at a Tennessee church on Sunday has been identified by police as a legal U.S. resident who came from Sudan in 1996.

Police received a call about a shooting as people were leaving the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tenn., about 10 miles southeast of downtown Nashville, at 11:15 a.m. The gunman, wearing a ski mask, had arrived in a blue SUV.

Melanie Smith, 39, a single mother of two from Smyrna, was shot in the parking lot before the gunman entered the church and shot the others, police said.

"Inside a church building a gunman opened fire on them, multiple rounds of fire inside the church," police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters. "At this juncture six persons, six innocent persons were wounded by gunfire inside the church."

Joe Love, 67, who lives across the street from the church, said he initially thought the sounds were a car crash.

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

The suspect, Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, accidentally shot himself after he was confronted by a member of the congregation, according to Metro Nashville Police. Caleb Engle, an usher at the church, fought with the gunman.

Samson, a resident of neighboring Rutherford County, was treated and released from Vanderbilt Medical Center. He was transported to jail and charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder charges, police said.

"Mr. Engle is the hero," Aaron said. "Mr. Engel saved countless lives here today. It could have been much worse."

"I do not want to be labeled a hero. The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors, Engle answered.

Though he is a legal U.S. resident, officials said Samson is not a citizen.

WSMV-TV reported that church members told police Samson had attended the church a year or two ago.

Among those injured were the church's minister Joey Spann, 60, a Bible teacher and basketball coach at Nasvhille Christian School, and his wife, Peggy, 65.

A spokesman for Vanderbilt University Medical Center said Joey Spann was listed in critical-but-stable condition, and the others -- including Engle -- were listed in stable condition.

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