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A black man accused of killing a woman and injuring seven other people at a Nashville church in September 2017 was trying to kill at least 10 white believers to avenge June 2015 massacre at a historic black church in South Carolina, prosecutors said Monday.
Nashville Deputy district Attorney Amy Hunter said in her opening statement that defendant Emanuel Samson, 27, referred to the recording carried out by white supremacist Dylann Roof at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in a note police found in his car outside the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.
“Dylann Roof is less than nothing,” the note read, Hunter said. “The blood that 10 of your kind of strainer is that the color on the RBG [Pan-African] flag in terms of revenge.” The note contained an expletive and ended with a smiley, Hunter said.
Emanuel Samson the judge arrives in Nashville for a pre-trial hearing this past February. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
“This state will prove beyond reasonable doubt that on Sept. 24, 2017, this defendant, Emanuel Kidega Samson, went to the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ with the intent to murder on a minimum of 10 white churchgoers that day,” Hunter said. “You don’t have to take the state’s word for it all.”
Samson’s lawyer, Jennifer Lynn Thompson, claimed that Samson is the true intention was to kill himself, saying that her client left a suicide note for his girlfriend and sent a farewell video to his cousin.
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“What this case is about a man who was very sad, very suicidal, and he was looking to die that day,” Thompson told jurors Monday.
A court order had kept much of the details of the case secret until trial.
During a hearing in April it was already clear that a psychiatrist the diagnosis of Samson with “schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type” and post-traumatic stress disorder after an abusive, violent upbringing.
Suspect in Tennessee church shooting identified
Police say one person was killed, several people injured
The prosecutors have said that they are looking for a life without parole for Samson, who is faced with a 43-count indictment, including a first-degree murder charges. The shooting killed 38-year-old Melanie L. Crow of Smyrna, Tennessee. She was shot in the church, the parking lot, and asked for her Bible, and the notes of a recently concluded worship ceremony, Hunter said.
“Melanie Crow left of the church that day to go to her car, she never got there because they had to pass by the suspect in his car,” Hunter said. “He shot her in her face and then three times in the back.”
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The members of the church packed the courtroom, sometimes emotionally as lawyers and witnesses told a Sunday filled with chaos, tragedy and heroism. Churchgoer Robert Caleb Engle testified that during the rampage, he twice confronted with the gunman, who is wearing a tactical vest and a motorcycle-style mask with a clown that has a smile on. Engle said he was pistol-whipped three times in the head. At one point, he pushed the gun back at the shooter, and a shot is fired, hitting the gunman and sending him to the ground.
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Engle said his father kicked the gun away, stood on the shooter’s hand and told Engle to get his gun from his truck.
Engle came back with his weapon, put his foot on the shooter’s back and stood on guard until the emergency services arrived.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Sgt. Geoffrey Craig testified that he almost shot Engle when he saw him standing guard over Samson, only to be stopped by Engle’s father.
“I heard someone shout: ‘don’t shoot, my son,'” Craig said. “‘That is my son.'”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.