ANTIOCH, Tenn. — A Tennessee man who went on a shooting rampage at a church last month, killing one and injuring seven others, told police after being taken into custody that he had “heard voices” prior to carrying out the attack.
“He made some comments about visions and voices a couple of times,” Metro Homicide Detective Steve Jolley explained on Monday in Davidson County Criminal Court.
“He was kind of indicating that he heard voices, and he had seen an image about that particular church. When I tried to get him to elaborate on it, he was very vague, and I couldn’t get him to elaborate on anything,” he said.
Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, also said that the shooting had nothing to do with race or religion, although a piece of his journal was found in his car that cited South Carolina gunman Dylan Roof, who he reportedly called “less than nothing” for opening fire on an African American church.
However, he did note that he had been struggling with emotional pain, and began to cry a bit when asked about the matter. WSMV-TV reports that Samson had threatened suicide in 2014, which prompted family members to call police. He also expressed suicidal thoughts in his journal that year.
Samson’s defense attorneys therefore state that perhaps Samson is mentally ill.
“This case has all the hallmarks of a mental health type defense,” attorney David Raybin told reporters. “Somebody that would do this has got to have something wrong with him, unless it’s a premeditated terrorist act, and it may be. I’m not saying that is wasn’t or was.”
As previously reported, Samson reportedly was wearing a mask and holding two pistols when he arrived at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch on Sept. 24 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.
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.
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’s case will now head to a grand jury for deliberation.