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Nashville church shooting ‘a terrible tragedy’

NASHVILLE (BP) — One person is dead and eight injured following what police have called a “mass casualty” church shooting in Nashville Sunday morning (Sept. 24).

Government officials and Southern Baptist leaders reacted with expressions of sadness and sympathy.

The gunman, identified by media reports as 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson, allegedly shot and killed a woman in the parking lot of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the southeast Nashville neighborhood of Antioch shortly after the morning service had ended. With his car still running, he then entered the church’s rear doors and began “indiscriminately” shooting, according to Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper.

Pastor Joey Spann, 66, and his wife Peggy, 65, were among the injured, according to a Facebook post by Nashville Christian School, where Joey Spann teaches Bible and coaches basketball.

A church usher confronted Samson inside the church, according to media reports, and Samson suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound during the struggle. It was unclear whether the self-inflicted wound was intentional. The usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle, then retrieved a gun from his car and held Samson at gunpoint until police arrived. Engle has a valid carry permit, Nashville’s WKRN news reported.

Police called Engle a “hero,” according to the Tennessean.

Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page told Baptist Press in written comments, “Our prayers go out to the victims of the mass shooting in Antioch, Tenn. People should be able to attend the church of their choice and do so in safety.

“Sadly, the violence that is rampant in our society has manifested its ugly head once again and, once again, this violence is combined with cowardice by targeting innocent people. Our prayers go out to this pastor, his wife and their congregation,” Page said.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore tweeted, “Mass church shooting today just outside of Nashville. Please pray for this church and for my city.”

Nashville mayor Megan Barry called the shooting “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. Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. My administration, especially the Metro Nashville Police Department, will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution, and promote non-violence.”

Five of the shooting victims and the gunman were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Pastor Spann was in critical condition as of Sunday afternoon, and all others were listed as stable, according to WKRN.

Samson is to be taken into police custody upon his release from the hospital, WKRN reported.