ANTIOCH, Tenn. — A man who opened fire on a Tennessee church on Sunday, killing one and injuring seven others, has now been charged with first-degree murder.
Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, reportedly was wearing a mask and holding two pistols when he arrived at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch shortly after the end of the morning service.
He first came in contact with member Melanie Smith, 39, as she was walking to her car, and shot her to death. Samson then proceeded to enter the church where he “began indiscriminately shooting” at those inside, according to police.
Among those struck by gunfire were Joey Spann, 60, who pastors the church, as well as his wife, Peggy, 65. Spann also serves as a Bible teacher at Nashville Christian School. He and his wife are listed in stable condition.
Also among the wounded include members Linda Bush, 68, William Jenkins, 83, Marlene Jenkins, 84, Catherine Dickerson, 64, and Robert Engle, 22.
Engle, an usher, is being hailed as a hero as he 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.
A 10-year-old boy is also being credited for his quick thinking as he helped to barricade a room that he and others were fellowshipping in outside of the sanctuary.
“When I heard someone scream ‘get down’ and more screaming, I grabbed a couch and turned it on its side, and I got a table and I got chairs and I just put chairs and chairs [by the door],” Jeremiah Reese told the Tennessean.
Samson, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sudan in 1996, told authorities during questioning that he “fired on the church building.” He had also posted to social media prior to the shooting, “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 & vice versa,” he also wrote, according to NBC News.
Kenny Love, a musician who knew Samson from high school, told the outlet that the act was uncharacteristic of the man he used to know.
“Only thing I can go off of is maybe he spoke to somebody who got into his head,” he stated. “He wasn’t big on religion. I think maybe the devil got to him. Or maybe he was going through something and no one knew it.”
Samson has now been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder, and is being held without bond. Members state that he had attended the church a year or two ago.