Emanuel Kidega Samson was once a highly involved member of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee. He’d grown up there and the families that made up the congregation looked at him as one of their own. He was passionate about faith and always looking to learn more. In fact, he even was known for sitting in the very front row of the church with his cousins for the Sunday service. Only a few years ago, Minister Joey Spann was watching Samson enthusiastically teach Vacation Bible School to the youth of the parish. But on Friday, he watched the same young man stood before the court as he was convicted of first degree murder, according to ABC News.
In 2017, Samson, who was the same young man the people of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ loved and trusted, opened fire upon the very church where he’d grown up. He sprayed the unsuspecting congregants with bullets, killing one person and leaving seven others injured.
What caused Samson to turn so quickly on those that were like family to him? He says it was mental illness. At an open hearing back in April, it was revealed in court that the suspect had been diagnosed by a psychiatrist with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type. He also reportedly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after enduring a violent and abusive childhood. His own sister was able to back up these claims about his upbringing.
Minister Joey Spann and those that make up Burnette Chapel Church of Christ are of the practice of forgiveness. However, forgiveness, in this case, is made all the more difficult because they were betrayed by one of their own. Also, they’ve never even heard Samson say that he’s sorry for his own crimes. Though the incident may have happened back in 2017, many are still trying to reconcile the young boy they once knew with the man that stood before them in court.
Spann spoke about this challenge with reporters on Friday. He pointed out that had Samson simply chosen a different path on that fateful day, he wouldn’t be spending the rest of his life behind bars.
“It angered me. And knowing the guy we knew, it’s been hard for the last year and a half to two years to want that boy in jail forever. But it’s not hard to want this guy in jail forever. He was at an early age and I would think, through experience, that he chose the wrong path and was influenced by the wrong people.”