Investigators have yet to declare a motive for the church shooting on Sunday in the Nashville area that ended in one death. Although there’s wild speculation on social media—some falsely equating this shooter with the White supremacist Dylan Roof in Charleston—it’s unclear if race (or religion) motivated Emanuel Kidega Samson, who is Black.
According to reports, Samson, 25, exited his vehicle in the parking lot of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee as the service ended and opened fire, killing 39-year-old Melanie Smith as she walked to her car.
He then entered the rear sanctuary door and squeezed off shots, randomly hitting worshippers, including the pastor and his wife. A church usher confronted Samson, who accidently shot himself. The shooter survived his self-inflicted injury. He now faces at least one murder count, plus several other charges. Additionally, the Department of Justice and the FBI are looking into possible federal civil rights charges.
Here’s what we know so far in this developing case.
According to Samson’s Facebook page, he lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but he’s originally from Khartoum, Sudan. The Tennessean reported that Samson immigrated to the United States in 1996 and is a legal U.S. resident, though not an American citizen. As a legal resident, Samson would not be subject to possible deportation under President Donald Trump’s pending termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Attended the church before
According to CNN, Samson attended the church at least two years ago. Several current members said they did not immediately recognize Samson because he wore a mask during the assault. Sudan is a Muslim nation, with a tiny Christian population. However, the religious beliefs of the Sudanese native are unclear.
Cryptic FB messages
Samson wrote what many are calling “cryptic” messages on his Facebook page hours before the shooting:
“Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real.
& vice versa, B.”
“Become the creator instead of what’s created . Whatever you say, goes.”
And above images of Samson flexing his muscles, he posted this message: “Unrestricted, paroxysm.”
The Tennessean said Samson sent this text message to his father in June: “… I have a gun to my head, have a nice F***ing life.” Police officers tracked down Samson after his father contacted them. WSMV-TV said Samson told the officers that his father “had overblown the situation.”
Samson had two encounters with the police—but no arrests—in domestic dispute incidents with his girlfriend, according to The Tennessean. In one of the incidents, he reportedly punched a small TV and broke a small figurine in her home during an argument.