One person was killed and seven others were wounded when a gunman opened fire Sunday at a church in Antioch, Tennessee, near Nashville, officials said. Police said the gunman, who shot himself, was in custody.
About 50 people were in the church at the time of the shooting, which was reported at 11:15 a.m. Central time as services were ending, police said.
Robert Engle, an usher at the church, the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, was pistol-whipped when he confronted the gunman.
Engle, 22, then ran to his car, got his gun and returned to ensure “the gunman didn’t make any more movements until police arrived,” Don Aaron, a police spokesman, said at a news conference.
Chief Steve Anderson of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said Engle’s actions helped end the shooting.
“He’s the hero,” Anderson said at a news conference.
Engle late Sunday issued a statement asking people to pray for the victims, their families and the church community as well as the gunman and his family and friends, who “are hurting as well.”
“I do not want to be labeled a hero,” said Engle, who police said suffered a “significant injury” to his head. “The real heroes are the police, first responders, and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.”
The gunman was identified as Emanuel K. Samson, 25, of Rutherford County, Tennessee. After being released from the hospital, he was taken to jail and was to be charged with murder and attempted murder, police said Sunday night.
The Justice Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Samson, a legal resident of the United States who immigrated from Sudan in the 1990s, had attended the church a year or two ago, police said, but his motive in the shooting was unclear.
The person killed was Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tennessee, police said. The other victims were identified as Joey Spann, 60, the church’s minister; Peggy Spann, 65, his wife; William Jenkins, 83; Marlene Jenkins, 84; Linda Bush, 68; and Katherine Dickerson, 64. None of their injuries were life-threatening, police said in a news release.