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2017-SEP & NOV: Two more mass shootings in U.S. Churches

Murder and Mass Shooting in
Antioch, TN. Mass Murder and
injuries in Sutherland Springs, TX:

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2017-SEP-24: Single murder and mass shooting in Antioch, TN:

This event happened at the Burnette Chapel - Church of Christ in Antioch, TN, near Nashville. At about 11:15 AM, the service was ending. A lone gunman -- identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25 -- killed Melanie Crow Smith, 39. She happened to be walking to her car in the church's parking lot. He then entered the back of the church, armed with two handguns. He injured David (Joey) Spann, 60, the pastor, as well as six parishioners aged 60 to 84. A total of 42 people were attending the service. Numerous children were in another part of the building and were not directly involved in the tragedy.

Samson is a legal immigrant who came to the U.S. from Khartoum, Sudan at the age of 4. Although the Sudan is about 97% Muslim, Samson is a Christian. He posted on Facebook that we was a "devoted Christian" who was thinking of becoming a preacher. In 2010, he wrote:

"I’m aiming at psychologist; but also becoming a preacher. Either way it may go in my life as I pursue to do what the Lord has called me to do."

He graduated from Motlow State Community College in 2013 with an associate’s degree in psychology. He lived in Murfreesboro, TN about 25 miles south of Antioch. He had attended the Chapel in the past, but not recently.

An usher, Robert Engle, 22, confronted the gunman. During the struggle, Samson accidentally shot himself in his chest or leg (sources differ). Engle held the gunman under guard until the police arrived. Samson was released from hospital later that day, and was charged with murder and multiple attempted murders. 1,2,3,4

Engle said:

"I do not want to be labeled a hero. The real heroes are the police, first responder and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.

I’ve been going to this church my whole life, since I was a small child. I would never, ever thought something like this would have happened. I ask everyone to pray for the victims, family members of the victims, our church community. Please pray for healing. Also, please pray for the shooter, the shooter’s family and friends. They are hurting as well. I pray that through all of this that people will come to know Christ and I ask our nation to reflect on Romans 8:31: 'If God is for us, who can be against us'?" 4

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Megan Barry, the mayor of Nashville, said:

"This is 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." 5

Glenn Funk, Nashville’s District Attorney General, released the following statement:

Reducing violent crime is the number one priority of the District Attorney’s Office. We will dedicate all resources of this office toward fully prosecuting this case. Nashville should be a safe place to live and we should feel especially safe in our houses of worship.

Governor Bill Haslam (R) of Tennessee said he and his wife were:

"... praying for the victims and committed to supporting the Antioch community in the aftermath of this tragedy." 3

The FBI has launched a civil rights investigation.

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2017-NOV-05: Mass murder in Sutherland Springs, TX -- the worst church killing in U.S. history, to date:

Sutherland Springs is an unincorporated community in Texas, with a population of about 600. It is located 30 miles (48km) south-east of San Antonio in south-central Texas.

On NOV-05, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, walked up to the town's First Baptist Church, dressed in black and wearing a ballistic vest. It was about 11:25 AM on Sunday, and a service was in progress. He fired at the church from the outside, using his Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic assault rifle. (Such rifles fire one bullet every time the trigger is pulled, so they are capable of killing many people per minute.) He then went into the church, walking up and down the aisle, methodically killing 25 parishioners, and the fetus being carried by Crystal Holcombe, a woman who was 8 months pregnant and was also among those killed, along with three of her four children: 13-year-old Greg, 11-year-old Emily and 9-year-old Megan. Crystal's fourth child, 7-year-old Evelyn, survived. She ran out of the church to a neighbor's house. She suffered a head contusion, which may have been caused by her head hitting a pew.

He also injured 20 people. The child and adult victims ranged in age from about 17 months to 77 years, and included eight members spanning three generations from one family. Lula White, Kelley's own grandmother-in-law, died. So did 14 year-old Anabelle Pomery, the pastor's daughter.

Torie McCallum witnessed the killings. She is the sister-in-law of Crystal Holcombe, and a volunteer medic in nearby Floresville. She spent 12 hours at the scene, and said:

"There were just so many babies in there. It was a church. It was families. Watching them [sic] take person after person after person out was so heartbreaking."

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An NBC News video:


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Sponsored link:

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Kelley fired a total of 450 bullets -- emptying 15 rifle cartridges -- at and in the church.

As he left the building, Stephen Willeford, a local resident who had heard the gunshots, picked up his own rifle, and fired at Kelley. In a later TV interview on CNN, he said that he was certain that he had hit Kelley with at least one bullet. 7 Kelley dropped his rifle and sped away in his car. Another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff joined Willeford in a car and chased after Kelley northward into the adjacent Guadalupe County. They sometimes speeded at 95 miles per hour (153 km/hr). Kelley phoned his father while attempting to escape, telling him that he had been shot and didn't think he was going to make it. His car left the road and crashed. Police arrived at the scene a few minutes later. They found Kelley dead, apparently having committed suicide.

Twenty-six human lives ended in the attack: 25 adults and children and one fetus. At least four helicopters were on the scene to transport the wounded to hospitals. One person who was injured died later. As of the evening of NOV-06, 14 of the injured were still in various hospitals; ten of those were in critical condition. All survived.

The church was badly damaged by the event. The congregation is appealing for donations to restore the church's interior. See:

The events are discussed in a series of short videos from the Washington Post:


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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Burnette Chapel shooting," Wikipedia, as on 2017-NOV-06, at:
  2. "1 dead, 8 injured in ‘mass casualty’ shooting at Antioch church," WKRN, 2017-SEP-26, at:
  3. "Deadly Tennessee church shooting: Sudanese immigrant arrested, FBI launches civil rights investigation," Fox News, 2017-SEP-24, at:
  4. Tom Cleary, "Emanuel Samson: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know," Heavy, Inc., 2017-SEP-25, at:
  5. "Mayor Megan Barry Statement on Burnette Chapel Church of Christ Shooting," Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, 2017-SEP-24, at:
  6. Erik Ortiz, "Texas Counted a Fetus as a Church Shooting Victim — That’s Not Unusual," NBC News, 2017-NOV-12, at:
  7. "Breaking News" program on CNN, during the evening of 2017-NOV-10.
  8. , "Texas church gunman had threatened his mother-in-law, who attended services there, officials say," Washington Post, 2017-SEP--06, at:

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Copyright 2017 © Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2017-NOV-07
Latest update: 2017-NOV-14
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