A 39-year-old woman was killed while seven other people were injured on Sunday when a man apparently wearing a clown mask stormed a church in Antioch, Tennessee and opened fire.
Melanie Smith, a resident of Smyrna, was shot dead in the church’s car park. Her body was found near the car of the suspect, which was still running. Smith was apparently walking to her car when she was killed.
The Tennessee church shooting suspect was revealed later to be Emanuel Kidega Samson. The 25-year-old African-American is an immigrant from Sudan who came to the country in 1996, according to police. Samson is a legal U.S. resident.
Samson, who police later said was wearing something that looked more like a ski mask instead of a clown mask, entered through the back of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ around 11 a.m. and fired “multiple rounds.” He went into the Tennessee church as service was about to end. The pastor shouted “run” upon seeing the gunman, according to an eyewitness. Those who were injured were shot from behind.
Minerva Rosa, who was interviewed by the local publication, the Tennessean, said that the churchgoers were mostly senior people. Six of the people wounded from the attack, three men and three women, were all over 60-years-old. The other victim was a young church usher.
Four of the injured, identified by police as Marlene Jenkins, 84; Williams Jenkins, 83; Linda Bush, 68; and Peggy Spann, 65, were brought to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where they were later announced to be in stable condition. David “Joey” Spann, 60, is also being treated in the same hospital but is in critical but stable condition. Spann is reportedly the pastor at the Burnette Chapel Church aside from being a Bible teacher and basketball coach at Nashville Christian School, according to Fox News.
Katherine Dickerson, 64, and the 22-year-old church usher were treated at Skyline Medical Center and are now listed as in stable condition.
The church usher is now being hailed a hero after confronting the gunman mid-attack. Robert Engle struggled with the shooter before Samson hit him on the face with his gun. It was first thought that Samson shot himself but police are also looking at the possibility that the suspect was accidentally shot in the chest during the struggle with Engle.
The injured church usher was able to grab his own pistol from his car before going back into the church. Engle guarded the injured Samson until police arrived.
Police recognized Engle’s actions citing that the usher was an “extraordinarily brave individual.” Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron also said that Samson “was not expecting a brave individual like the church usher to initiate the struggle and confrontation.”
Samson has been released from the hospital and will now face charges of murder and attempted murder.
According to the police investigation, Samson used to go to the church around one to two years ago. Some of the churchgoers told police that they hadn’t seen Samson in church “in quite a while.”
[Featured Image by Metro Nashville Police Department/AP Images]