NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WNCN/AP/WKRN) — A young usher who subdued a masked gunman in a deadly church shooting Sunday morning is being called “extraordinarily brave” by police and “a hero” by a woman who was in the church when the gunfire broke out.
The usher first confronted the gunman who had already killed a woman on Sunday and then — after being “pistol whipped” — the usher ran to his car, grabbed his own gun and returned to the church to hold the suspect at gunpoint until help came, officials said.
Robert “Caleb” Engle, 22, an usher at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the Nashville neighborhood of Antioch, was with other churchgoers when services were letting out around 11:15 a.m., officials said.
The gunman, later identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, was carrying two pistols when he arrived in the parking lot as services around the same time, Metropolitan Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said.
Police say they seized another pistol and a rifle from Samson’s vehicle.
Aaron says a woman who was walking to her vehicle was fatally shot.
The suspect then continued into the rear entrance of the church, walked inside and opened fire – hitting six people inside with bullets from the two pistols, Aaron said.
A witness to a shooting is calling Engle, who had been a member of the church his entire life, “a hero.”
Minerva Rosa has been a member of the church for eight years. She was inside when the masked gunman opened fired Sunday.
Rosa says the suspect said nothing as he shot churchgoers.
As the gunman made his way down the aisle, Rosa says the pastor started shouting, “‘Run! Run! Gunshots!”
Police said Engle suffered a “significant injury to the head” when the gunman pistol-whipped him.
Amid the confrontation, authorities said the gunman accidentally shot himself, and Engle then ran out to his car to get his own gun and held it on the suspect until police arrived.
Rosa says without the usher, the situation “could be worse.”
Aaron calls Engle “an extraordinarily brave individual.”
Victims were identified as the minister, Joey Spann; his wife, Peggy Spann; William Jenkins, 83; his wife Marlene Jenkins, 84; Linda Bush, 68; and Katherine Dickerson, 64.
The masked gunman fatally shot Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tennessee outside the church, police said.
Engle released a statement Sunday night:
I’ve been going to this church my whole life, since I was a small child. I would have 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?”
When complimented at the hospital about his heroism, he said:
“I do not want to be labeled a hero. The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.”