A masked gunman invaded a Tennessee 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 accidentally in the struggle, authorities said.
Metro Nashville Police Spokesman Don Aaron said at a news conference that the gunman arrived in the parking lot as services were being let out Sunday at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.
Aaron says the suspect fatally shot 39-year-old Melanie Smith who was walking to her vehicle, then entered the rear of the church and six people were shot. Aaron says a churchgoer who confronted the gunman was pistol-whipped by the suspect, who then shot himself.
Aaron said the suspect, identified as 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson of Murfreesboro, was taken to a hospital.
The injured were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center. The nature of the injuries weren’t immediately known.
Witness Minerva Rosa said the usher, identified by police as 22-year-old Robert Engle, 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 shot churchgoers. As the gunman made his way down the aisle, Rosa said, the pastor started shouting, “‘Run! Run! Gunshots!’”
Aaron called Engle “an extraordinarily brave individual.”
The gunman and six others were treated for gunshot wounds at nearby hospitals, along with Engle, who was pistol-whipped, Aaron said.
Witnesses were being interviewed by police.
Aaron said as many as 50 people were in the church at the time of the shooting, and that all victims were adults.
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.
After the attack, the nearby New Beautiful Gate Church opened its doors to reunite Burnette Chapel churchgoers and loved ones.
New Beautiful Gate Pastor…