Suspect in Tennessee Church Shooting Had a Note Referencing Revenge for Charleston Church Massacre

Law enforcement gathered outside the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the Nashville area on Sunday. A new report says the attack was carried out in response to a church massacre in South Carolina.
Jamie Gilliam/Reuters

The 25-year-old black man accused of a deadly shooting at a church near Nashville had a note in his car that made reference to revenge for the church massacre carried out by a white supremacist in Charleston, S.C., according to a report by The Associated Press.

The note could help investigators better understand the state of mind of the gunman, identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, when he fatally shot a woman and left half a dozen wounded as services were ending last Sunday at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the Nashville area. The note also suggests a possible motive for the attack.

Mr. Samson of La Vergne, Tenn., was charged with murder and is being held without bond. The police said they expected additional charges to be filed.

The Associated Press said that its reporters had not seen the note but learned of its contents from two law enforcement officials who read from it. A law enforcement report said that “in sum and in no way verbatim,” the note made reference to retaliation for the actions of Dylann S. Roof, the white supremacist responsible for the 2015 murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, according to The A.P.

Emanuel Kidega Samson.
Metro Nashville Police Department, via Associated Press

The killings by Mr. Roof, who was convicted last year and later sentenced to death, shocked the country. Mr. Roof, then 21 and lacking any direct ties to white supremacist groups, had become radicalized online and carefully planned the assault, which he carried out after participating in the church’s Wednesday night Bible study. Nine people were killed. Mr. Roof never demonstrated any public remorse for the attack.

After the Charleston massacre, some political and law enforcement officials worried about possible retaliation. But one former federal prosecutor said on Friday that he had been more concerned about imitators.

“I was worried about a lot of things, and that event was so horrific that I really didn’t know what effect it was going to have on the community,” said William N. Nettles, who was the United States attorney for the District of South Carolina when the attack happened. “But at the time, my hunch was that I needed to be worried about a white nationalist’s copycat crime.”

Mr. Nettles, recalling the public expressions of forgiveness by some relatives of Mr. Roof’s victims, said he had been less fearful about a black person seeking race-based revenge “because of the enormous grace that was shown by the congregation and the community as a whole.”

Although the church that Mr. Roof targeted was predominantly black, the church in last Sunday’s attack had a mixed congregation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States attorney’s office in Nashville have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting in Antioch.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Serge F. Kovaleski and Alan Blinder