ANTIOCH, Tenn. — A Tennessee minister who was shot on Sunday along with his wife and six other members of his church—one being killed in the parking lot—recalled on Tuesday the horror that he experienced when a gunman opened fire on his congregation.
Joey Spann of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ spoke to the media for the first time on Tuesday, explaining that he did not think he was going to survive after being shot in the chest.
“Honey, he’s killed me. I’m dying, and I’m sorry,” he remembered telling his wife as he lay bleeding on the floor.
Spann said that he first came into contact with masked gunman Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, as he went to see why he was hearing “popping” sounds outside the church. Samson, spotting Spann, then began walking toward him with his gun pointed outward.
“I threw this container at him when he stepped in the door,” Spann recalled. “I went toward him; I was going to try and get him. He shot me in the chest; [it] felt like an air gun.”
“Joey! Joey!” Spann’s wife, who was also struck by a bullet, began calling out. Spann thought it was the end and that Samson was going to kill them all.
“He was reloading; he was gonna kill everybody there, I think,” Spann recalled. “I think Caleb saved us, and we’re very fortunate he was here that day.”
As previously reported, Robert “Caleb” Engle, 22, an usher, confronted Samson, being pistol-whipped by the assailant. He then went to his vehicle to obtain his own pistol, as he had a permit to legally carry a firearm.
“There was a significant struggle between the two,” Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron told NBC News. “During the struggle, the gunman shot himself—probably not intentionally—in the left pectoral muscle.”
Engle then ensured that Samson stayed still until police arrived on the scene.
Spann, who lost a finger as a result of the shooting, says that he is thankful just to be alive as he did not think he was going to survive.
“I don’t have any hard feelings toward him. I don’t think about him,” he told reporters. “If I had the opportunity to talk to him, I would, and I would try to help him.”
“If we’re in God’s hand and we believe that, we’re going to be alright. And I believe I’m in God’s hands,” Spann said. “Had I died, I’m going to be alright. God’s hand isn’t just about when things go good, or things go bad. It’s period.”
As previously reported, some members of Spann’s church state that Samson had attended the church a year or two ago. A 2010 post on his Facebook page reveals that Samson, at one point, was aspiring to be a preacher.
“I came too long of a way—all the way from Africa—to come to America and fail. I must say, that’s a complete no-no!” Samson, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sudan in 1994, wrote. “I’m aiming at [being a] psychologist; but also becoming a preacher. Either way, it may go in my life as I pursue to do what the Lord has called me to do…”
Although it is not known as to when, he also liked a number of Christian-themed pages, including “I Love Jesus,” “Resolved to Know Christ, “Reaching the Lost” and “Jesus the Savior,” and liked the films “Passion of the Christ” and “Left Behind.”
However, Samson also posted or liked much material that was laden with profanity, violence or other ungodly thought, and in the hours before the shooting, expressed instability as he wrote, “Become the creator instead of what’s created. Whatever you say goes.”
“Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believed as false, is real and vice versa,” Samson also posted.
On Aug. 2, he posted a video about the “laws of Karma,” and also shared a photo on Aug. 10 of a boy meditating, who he referred to as “my young god.” On July 31, he posted a link entitled “Boyfriends Ranked Best to Worst Based on Their Zodiac,” and on July 22, he shared an article about being “awakened” that featured a photo of a “third eye.”
Samson has now been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder, and is being held without bond.