NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – One woman was killed and eight people, including the gunman, were injured in what officials are calling a “mass casualty” incident at a church in Antioch Sunday morning.
Metro police responded to the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ on Pin Hook Road at 11:15 a.m.
The preliminary investigation shows the gunman–identified as Emanual Kidega Samson, 25–arrived to the church in a blue SUV wearing all black and half of a face mask. He was reportedly armed with 2 pistols.
Metro police said he immediately confronted a woman outside the church, shooting her at least one time, killing her on the scene. She was identified as Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna.
PHOTOS: Mass shooting at Antioch church
Samson is accused of then going inside the church and opening fire. Forty-two people were in attendance, and six people were injured. Those victims were identified as the minister, Joey Spann; his wife, Peggy Spann; William Jenkins, 83; his wife Marlene Jenkins, 84; Linda Bush, 68; and Katherine Dickerson, 64.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said the usher of the church—identified as 22-year-old Robert Engle—then confronted the gunman and was pistol-whipped, receiving a “significant injury to his head.”
At some point during the confrontation, authorities say the gunman then shot himself, but it’s unclear if it was intentional.
Aaron said the usher, who has a valid carry permit, then went out to his car and retrieved his own gun, holding it on the gunman until police arrived. Police described Engle as “extraordinarily brave” for his actions.
Five of the shooting victims as well as the gunman were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for treatment. As of 3:30 p.m., Minister Spann was listed as critical while everyone else was considered stable.
The usher and the final shooting victim were taken to TriStar Skyline Medical Center where they were last listed as stable.
Metro police said Samson was given an all-clear at the hospital around 3:30 p.m. and would be immediately taken into custody upon his discharge.
Warrants were being drawn against Sampson for one count of homicide and several counts of attempted homicide. A motive wasn’t immediately known.
Metro police said Samson attended the church one or two years ago. He moved to the United States from Sudan 1996 when he was four years old. He is a legal U.S. resident, but it’s unknown if he’s a legal citizen.
An area was set up for family members to meet up with the relatives who were at the church at the time of the shooting. This area was set up at Beautiful Gate Church located at 12316 Old Hickory Boulevard.
Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry released a statement that says “this is a terrible tragedy for our city.” She continued:
My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones. Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. My administration, especially the Metro Nashville Police Department, will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution, and promote non-violence.
Federal authorities were also on the scene Sunday and said a civil rights investigation will be opened into the shooting. The following statement was released by the U.S. Department of Justice:
The Memphis FBI Field Office’s Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence. As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time.
An investigation led by the Metro Nashville Police Department is ongoing.
Roads around the church were shut down as the investigation continued into Sunday evening, including La Vergne Couchville Pike off Old Hickory Boulevard, and Hobson Pike.