NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, has been charged with murder in Sunday’s attack on a Tennessee church. Samson is accused of shooting and killing churchgoer Melanie Smith, 39, in the parking lot of Nashville’s Burnette Chapel Church of Christ before going inside and wounding six worshipers. Officials say he then shot himself while in a scuffle with an usher who rushed to stop the attack.
The usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle, is being hailed a hero for stopping the attack despite being struck in the head with the gunman’s weapon. Engle retrieved a gun from his vehicle and re-entered the sanctuary to held the suspect at bay until police arrived.
“This is an exceptionally brave individual,” Nashville Police spokeman Don Aaron said of the usher during a briefing outside the church in Antioch, about 10 miles southeast of downtown Nashville.
Samson was armed with two pistols and had another handgun and a rifle in his sport utility vehicle, according to a police statement. Police had not determined the motive behind the shooting, but the spokesman said evidence was found that might establish why the man opened fire.
All but one of the six people wounded by gunfire were 60 or older and were taken to nearby hospitals, said Nashville Fire Department spokesman Joseph Pleasant. The church’s pastor, Joey Spann, was shot in the chest and was being treated at a hospital. Spann’s wife also was injured.