NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- 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 injured, authorities said.
An usher at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ confronted the shooter, who apparently shot himself in the struggle, authorities said.
The FBI said Sunday night it has opened a civil-rights investigation into the shooting at the church in the Antioch community near Nashville.
It was unclear whether the shooter intentionally wounded himself, said Don Aaron, spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.
No motive for the shooting was immediately determined. Investigators said they were not aware of any relationship between the gunman and any of the worshippers, Aaron said.
The gunman was identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, of Murfreesboro. He has been charged with one count of murder.
The Metropolitan Nashville police tweeted Sunday night that he will be charged later with "multiple additional charges."
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. No one answered the phone at two numbers associated with his address.
Samson pulled up to the church in a blue SUV that he left running. He was wearing a neoprene mask similar to what a skier would wear, Aaron said. Because of the mask, churchgoers did not immediately recognize him, police said.
Forty-two people were in the church at the time of the shooting, which was reported at 11:15 a.m. as services were ending, Aaron said.
The person killed was Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tenn., police said. The other victims were identified as Joey Spann, the church's minister; Peggy Spann, 65, his wife; William Jenkins, 83; his wife, Marlene Jenkins, 84; Linda Bush, 68; and Katherine Dickerson, 64. All were in stable condition except for Joey Spann, who was in critical condition.
Robert Engle, an usher at the church, 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. The usher, described by police as an "extraordinarily brave individual," suffered a "significant injury" to his head, Aaron said.
Witness Minerva Rosa said 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!'"
The gunman and six others were treated for gunshot wounds at nearby hospitals.
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 Michael Moseby said he is neighbors with Burnette Chapel Pastor Joey Spann and "my heart goes out to him and his whole church.
"As a pastor myself, you come with the expectation of sitting down and having a service and not thinking about what can happen around you," Moseby said. "You never know who is going to come to the door or what reasons they would come to the door, come to your church and do something like that. We're always on guard. We just thank God many more weren't hurt."
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement that the shooting was "a terrible tragedy for our city." She said her administration "will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution, and promote non-violence."
Information for this article was contributed by Kristin M. Hall and John Raby of The Associated Press and by Christina Caron of The New York Times.
A Section on 09/25/2017
Print Headline: Gunman opens fire at church; Police say 1 person killed, 7 injured in Tennessee rampage