By JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) 03/19 — The man accused of fatally shooting a woman and wounding six people at a Tennessee church in September faces a 43-count indictment, including charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and felony civil rights intimidation.
An arrest affidavit from September says Samson waived his rights and told police he arrived armed and fired at the church. The Sunday shooting rampage killed 38-year-old Melanie L. Crow of Smyrna, Tennessee. She was shot in the church parking lot.
All of the victims in the church shooting were white, but authorities have not definitively said whether they believe Samson, who is black, specifically targeted them based on their race or not. The indictment doesn’t specify which civil rights were infringed upon.
In October, Nashville Police Detective Steve Jolley testified that a note in Samson’s car referred to a white supremacist’s 2015 massacre at a South Carolina black church.
The note found on the dashboard read something like, “Dylann Roof was less than nothing,” Jolley said.
“It was really kind of just vague,” Jolley said.
But Jolley said Samson downplayed the role of race to detectives.
“I asked him specifically and he said that he didn’t give much thought to race,” Jolley said. “I think he also said the same thing about religion. So he didn’t indicate to me any particular thing for motivation.”
Jolley said Samson also told him he heard voices and had visions. Samson wouldn’t elaborate on a vision of the church when pressed by police during an interview, Jolley said.
Authorities have said Samson came to the U.S. from Sudan as a child in 1996 and is a U.S. citizen.
The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Nashville quickly opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Churchgoer Robert Caleb Engle has testified that during the rampage, he twice confronted the gunman, who was wearing a tactical vest and a motorcycle-style mask with a clown smile on it. Engle said he was pistol-whipped three times in the head. At one point, he pushed the gun back on the shooter and a shot fired, striking the gunman and sending him to the ground.
Engle said his father kicked the gun away, stood on the shooter’s hand and told Engle to go get his gun out of his truck.
Engle came back with his weapon, put his foot on the shooter’s back and stood guard until first responders arrived.
According to police records, Samson struggled to hold a job, had a volatile relationship with a woman that twice involved police this year, and also had expressed suicidal thoughts in June.
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