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Gunman rampages through Tenn. church

BRANDON GEE and TIM CRAIG
The Washington Post

September 24. 2017 9:46PM


NASHVILLE — A gunman wearing a ski mask stormed into a Nashville area church on Sunday, shooting seven people before attacking a church usher who then confronted the man with a weapon and subdued him, Nashville police said.

The shooting — which left a 39-year-old woman dead — occurred shortly before noon at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tenn., about 12 miles southeast of downtown Nashville. Police identified the alleged shooter as Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, of Tennessee; police said he will be charged with murder and attempted murder.

Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Nashville Police Department, said Samson drove up to the church and shot and killed a woman who was standing near her vehicle in the parking lot. The gunman then entered the church through a rear door, shooting and wounding six people inside.

At some point during his rampage, the gunman also pistol-whipped a church usher, causing “significant injuries” to the man, Aaron said. The usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle, confronted the gunman, police said, and during a struggle, Samson was injured with a shot from his own gun. The usher then ran to his car and retrieved a handgun, police said.

Aaron said the usher ensured the gunman did not make any more movements until officers arrived on the scene. “It would appear he was not expecting to encounter a brave individual like the church usher,” Aaron said.

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson praised Engle for intervening: “We believe he is the hero today.”

Police identified the deceased victim as Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tenn. The six surviving gunshot victims, all described as being between the ages of 60 and 83, are being treated at Nashville-area hospitals, as is the usher. Police said the shooter also was taken to a hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound.

Aaron said the gunman left his vehicle idling after he pulled up to the church, and he was wearing a “neoprene mask, best described as a ski mask.” About 50 parishioners were inside the church at the time, police said.

Doug Ramey, 45, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., said he met with Engle at Skyline Medical Center, where the usher was being treated for injuries including a separated shoulder. Ramey said Engle told him he sprang into action after hearing gunshots both inside and outside the church.

Engle told Ramey that he approached the shooter thinking he had his handgun on him, but he realized that he didn’t and instead engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle instead. After Samson was shot in the struggle, Engle’s father stood guard over him while Engle went to get his firearm from his vehicle. When he returned, Engle put his gun on Samson and held him down with his foot, Ramey said.

“Robert said the guy didn’t say a word,” Ramey said as he stood at the police line barrier at the church on Sunday afternoon, waiting for Engle’s girlfriend, who remained with other parishioners as police continued to gather evidence. “He had a mask on the whole time.”

In an interview with Nashville’s ABC affiliate, a man who lives near the church said the gunman appeared to have targeted at least one of his victims.

“He shot the lady in the back and then rolled her over and shot her in the face,” Joe Love, the witness, said, referring to the victim who was found in the parking lot. In a separate interview aired by CNN, Love said he also saw the gunman “knock an elderly man out of his walker.”


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