NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A masked Sudanese gunman invaded a Nashville church Sunday and opened fire, walking silently down the aisle as he shot unsuspecting congregants, killing one and wounding seven others, authorities said.
An usher confronted the shooter, who apparently shot himself in the struggle before he was arrested, police 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!’ ”
Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department called the usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle, “an extraordinarily brave individual."
No motive was immediately determined. Church members told investigators that the suspect had attended services a year or two ago, Aaron said. 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 seven people, Aaron said.
The woman who was killed in the parking lot was identified as Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tenn.
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.
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.”
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