NASHVILLE — A note found in the SUV of a man charged in Sunday’s church shooting referenced retaliation for a white supremacist’s massacre at a black church two years ago in Charleston, S.C., law-enforcement officials told the Associated Press.
Police believe Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, of Smyrna, Tenn., shot and killed one woman while injuring seven others in an attack at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the southeast Nashville neighborhood of Antioch. While police have not released a motive for the attack, the note could offer a glimpse into his mindset.
AP reporters did not view the note, but it was summarized in an investigative report circulating among law enforcement.
“In sum and in no way verbatim,” the note referenced revenge or retaliation for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine black worshipers at a South Carolina church in 2015 and has since been sentenced to death. The report did not cite what precisely Samson is alleged to have written about the Roof shooting or whether his note contained other important details that might also speak to the motivation or state of mind behind the recent crime.
Some far-right conservatives have been analyzing what they believe to be Samson’s social-media posts, saying the attack a week ago was racially motivated, Newsweek reported.
Two law enforcement officials read portions of the report to AP on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to publicly discuss an ongoing investigation.
Metro Nashville police, contacted Friday. would not comment on the new information.
“Churches, synagogues and mosques are special places, and historically protecting them has been a top priority of federal prosecutors.”
Jerry Martin, former U.S. attorney
“We do not anticipate additional announcements concerning the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ (shooting) as the case remains under investigation,” police spokesman Don Aaron said.
Spokespeople for the Nashville district attorney’s office, the Nashville mayor, the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office also declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. Samson’s public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Samson is charged with murder in connection with the homicide of Melanie Crow, a 38-year-old mother of two shot dead in the church parking lot, but other charges are expected.
Samson, a legal U.S. resident who came to the United States from Sudan when he was about 5 years old and grew up in Smyrna, told police he was at Burnette Chapel and “acknowledged that he fired, quote, ‘at the church,’ ” police Chief Steve Anderson said Monday in a news conference. “That’s the extent of our information that we’ve obtained from him at this point.”
The church’s pastor, Joey Spann, was shot in the chest and the hand and expressed doubt Tuesday when asked if the shooting were racially motivated. During a news conference at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, he said his church was older and mostly white but added that the congregation included some black members.
“I don’t know where they would get that this was racially motivated,” Spann said. “I don’t know if he had another belief system. I don’t know. I just find that out from listening to you all.”
Spann was released from the hospital Thursday, according to a friend and colleague. Vanderbilt said four shooting victims were still in the hospital Friday.
Police said Samson had four guns with him at the church: He reportedly took .40-caliber and 9-mm handguns inside the church while leaving a .22-caliber pistol and an unloaded semi-automatic AR-15 rifle in his Nissan Xterra.
He wore a tactical vest and brought three additional magazines of ammunition into the church, police said. Samson fired 12 rounds from the .40-caliber handgun during the attack, according to the police, stopping to reload the gun at least once.
Crow was buried Thursday. Presiding over an emotional funeral, Pastor Mike Thomason urged those in attendance to live out their faith by forgiving Samson.
Hours after the attack, federal authorities opened a civil-rights investigation.
Several former U.S. attorneys recently told The Tennessean why such an investigation is necessary and what law enforcement could learn from the probe.
“Churches, synagogues and mosques are special places, and historically protecting them has been a top priority of federal prosecutors,” said Jerry Martin, former U.S. attorney for Middle Tennessee from 2010 to 2013.
A former Civil Rights Division attorney, Jonathan Skrmetti, said investigators do not need to prove that race or religion were the primary motivating factors for the attack. As long as any hate is detected in a suspect’s background, the crime could fall under federal civil-rights statutes.
“A lot involves talking to people close to the attacker, searching the home for any sort of propaganda, journals or any other evidence that would reflect a serious hostility toward a particular race or religion,” Skrmetti said.
Samson’s case has begun making its way through the court system. Lawyers will meet Oct. 6 to discuss scheduling hearings.