A gunman has opened fire at the end of a church service near the city of Nashville in Tennessee, killing a woman and injuring seven others, local officials say. The suspect shot himself before being taken into custody.
The incident began just before 11:15 a.m. CT on Sunday when officers were called to reports of an active shooter at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, which is a neighborhood about 9.5 miles (15 kilometers) southeast of Nashville.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said the gunman first arrived in the church’s parking lot. “One woman who was walking to her vehicle was immediately fatally wounded by the gunman,” a police spokesman said.
The suspect is then believed to have entered the rear of the church. “Other persons were still inside the church building. The gunman opened fire on them [and] multiple rounds were fired inside the church,” the spokesman said.
Police confirmed that a total of 7 victims had been shot, including 39-year-old Melanie Smith who was killed in the parking lot of the church. At least two of those injured were reported to be in a critical condition. An eighth victim was pistol-whipped and taken to hospital for treatment.
Police said one of the churchgoers has a gun permit and ran to his car to retrieve his weapon, which he used to confront the suspect. A struggle ensued during which the churchgoer was pistol-whipped and the suspect accidentally shot himself in the chest.
The suspect, who was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, was identified as 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson from Murfreesboro. The man, who is originally from Sudan, does not appear to have a criminal history.
Authorities said there was no indication that Samson had a link to the church, but they added that the investigation had only just begun. Samson was released from hospital later on Sunday and is expected to be charged with murder and attempted murder.
Samson had posted cryptic messages on his Facebook account less than an hour before Sunday’s shooting.
“You are more than what they told us,” one of the posts said. “Become the creator instead of what’s created. Whatever you say, goes,” a second message said. In a third post he wrote: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.”
The gunshot victims include both church employees and people who were attending a weekly church service that starts at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Churchgoers who were not injured were being interviewed by police.
“This is a terrible tragedy for our city. My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones,” said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. “Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.”
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