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Gunman Opens Fire in Nashville Church  09/24 18:57

   NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A masked gunman invaded a Nashville church Sunday 
and opened fire, walking silently down the aisle as he shot unsuspecting 
congregants. At least one person was killed and seven others wounded, 
authorities said.

   An usher confronted the shooter, who apparently shot himself in the struggle 
before he was arrested, police said.

   No motive was immediately determined. Church members told investigators that 
the suspect had attended services a year or two ago, said Don Aaron, a 
spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department. Nashville police did not 
immediately comment on several bizarre posts on the suspect's Facebook page in 
the hours before the shooting.

   The gunman pulled into the parking lot at the Burnette Chapel Church of 
Christ as services were ending. He fatally shot a woman who was walking to her 
vehicle, then entered the rear of the church with two pistols and kept firing, 
hitting six people, Aaron said.

   Authorities identified the attacker as Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, of 
Murfreesboro, who came to the United States from Sudan in 1996 and was a legal 
U.S. resident.

   It was unclear whether the self-inflicted wound to the chest was 
intentional, Aaron said.

   The gunman was discharged hours later from Vanderbilt University Hospital 
but remained in police custody. Warrants charging him with murder and attempted 
murder were pending, Aaron said.

   Witness Minerva Rosa said the usher was "a hero."

   "He's amazing," said Rosa, a member of the church for eight years. "Without 
him, I think it could be worse."

   The suspect said nothing as he fired. While the gunman made his way down the 
aisle, Rosa said, the pastor started shouting, "'Run! Run! Gunshots!'"

   Aaron called the usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle, "an extraordinarily brave 
individual."

   The woman who was killed in the parking lot was identified as Melanie Smith, 
39, of Smyrna, Tennessee.

   The gunman and six others were treated for gunshot wounds at nearby 
hospitals, along with Engle, who was pistol-whipped, Aaron said.

   Among the wounded was Joey Spann, who is the church's pastor and is a Bible 
study teacher at Nashville Christian School.

   After the attack, the nearby New Beautiful Gate Church opened its doors to 
Burnette Chapel churchgoers as they reunited with loved ones. New Beautiful 
Gate Pastor Michael Mosby said he is neighbors with Spann.

   "As a pastor myself, you come with the expectation of sitting down and 
having a service and not thinking about what can happen around you," Mosby 
said. "You never know who is going to come to the door or what reasons they 
would come to the door, come to your church and do something like that. We're 
always on guard. We just thank God many more weren't hurt."

   Forty-two people were at the church at the time of the shooting, and all 
victims were adults, Aaron said.

   The small brick church describes itself on its website as a "friendly, 
Bible-based group of folks who love the Lord and are interested in spreading 
his word to those who are lost."

   Photos on the church's Facebook page show a diverse congregation with people 
of various ages and ethnicities.

   On Samson's Facebook page, a post in the hours before the shooting read, 
"Everything you've ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice 
versa, B."

   Another post read, "Become the creator instead of what's created . Whatever 
you say, goes."

   And a third post read, "You are more than what they told us."

   Samson also posted several shirtless photos of himself flexing his muscles. 
In some he wears a tank top that reads "Beast Mode."

   Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement that the shooting was "a 
terrible tragedy for our city." She said her administration "will continue to 
work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful 
conflict resolution and promote non-violence."


(KA)

 
 
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