After the worst mass shooting in Nashville history, federal authorities opened a civil rights case to investigate why a gunman opened fire Sunday at a small church, killing one and leaving seven injured, reports the Tennessean. The shooter, who left his vehicle running outside Burnette Chapel Church of Christ and wore a mask while wielding two pistols, was identified by police as Emanuel Kidega Samson, a 25-year-old Rutherford County man. The gunman was shot and wounded during a daring confrontation with churchgoer Robert “Caleb” Engle, 22, who was described by police as a hero. The indiscriminate shooting occurred at 10:55 a.m., shortly after the service ended. In the chaos, many of the 42 churchgoers screamed while some ducked under church pews and others pretended to be dead. Church minister Joey Spann shouted for congregants to run.
The gunman parked his blue Nissan Xterra outside the church, then shot and killed Melanie Smith, a 39-year-old Smyrna resident in the parking lot. “He shot her like she was a damn dog in his backyard,” said Joe Love, who lives across the street from the church. Samson then walked through the rear doors of the sanctuary and fired on the congregation. Six people — three men and three women — were shot, including minister Spann, 60, and his 65-year-old wife, Peggy. Samson is a legal U.S. resident and came to America from Sudan in 1996. Although it’s unclear if race or religion played a role in the shooting, authorities, including the federal Justice Department, opened a civil rights case Sunday. Samson, who is black, alluded to an attack Sunday morning, posting cryptic messages on Facebook.