Tornadoes tear through Nashville, Tennessee on Super Tuesday, killing 22

By Timothy Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) – Powerful tornadoes tore through Nashville, Tennessee and surrounding counties early on Tuesday, killing at least 22 people, leaving others missing and reducing homes and businesses to rubble even as voters throughout the state cast ballots in the Super Tuesday presidential primary.

The death toll may rise given the number of people who remain unaccounted for following the twisters, which struck about 1 a.m. central standard time (2 p.m. eastern) Governor William Lee said at a news briefing.

Lee did not estimate how many people remained missing following his visit to devastated neighborhoods of Nashville, the state capitol, but said rescue teams were going door to door searching for trapped or injured residents.

“We encourage all Tennesseans to join us in praying for the families across our state that are facing tragedy today. Thank you to our first responders for working around the clock to keep us safe on this difficult day, Lee said on Twitter, describing the damage as “surreal.”

The National Weather Service said eight tornadoes reportedly touched down in Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky but that number could change following further analysis. It was not yet clear how many landed a direct hit on Nashville.

In addition to the fatalities, at least 30 people were injured and about 48 buildings were destroyed in Nashville, with many more damaged, Fire Department Director Chief William Swann said. Tens of thousands of people were left without power.

“Severe weather and tornados have impacted several counties in Tennessee. Counties with the greatest impacts include Davidson, Wilson, and Putnam Counties,” the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said in a post on its website.

The storm struck as many were sleeping in Nashville, home to 691,000 people and one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

POLLING STATIONS STAY OPEN

Pictures and video posted on Twitter showed lightning illuminating the dark sky as the twisters roared through the country music capital, and daybreak revealed dozens of leveled houses and businesses.

Tennessee is one 14 U.S. states holding presidential primary elections on Super Tuesday and despite the destruction, polling sites were mostly open for voting, officials said.

Crushed vehicles, piles of debris and broken power lines littered streets blocked by rescue vehicles. Residents carried away belongings from ravaged homes.

Greg Poulson, a 61-year-old man who lives in a Nashville homeless encampment with about 85 other people, said wind gusts lifted him off the ground as he ran underneath a bridge.

“I had a tree fall on my tent,” Poulson said. “The storm dropped right on top of us. We were ground zero.”

Charlotte Cooper, a French teacher at a Nashville Classical Charter School, said she felt lucky a twister had skipped over her house, which still suffered cracked windows and a downed fence.

“It’s like a war zone,” she said.

Apart from the public buildings set to be used for polling, schools, district offices and courts were closed.

Lee said he had spoken to the Trump administration about federal assistance. President Donald Trump said that he will go to Tennessee on Friday.

The twister knocked down power lines, and one utility pole dangled horizontally in the street in the Donelson area, home to country music’s most famous concert stage, the Grand Ole Opry.

Nashville Electric, the city’s public utility, said there were more than 47,000 customers without power, with damage to four substations, 15 primary distribution lines, and multiple power poles and lines.

John C. Tune Airport, about 8 miles from downtown Nashville, “sustained significant damage” and several hangars were destroyed, the airport said on its website.

Another 25,000 homes and businesses were without power elsewhere in Tennessee, emergency officials said.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)

Tornadoes rip Tennessee, leaving at least 19 dead, many missing

By Timothy Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) – At least 19 people were killed early on Tuesday after powerful tornadoes ripped through Nashville and other parts of Tennessee, flattening buildings and leaving tens of thousands of people without power, authorities said.

The death toll, provided by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, may rise given the number of people who remain missing statewide, Governor William Lee said at a news briefing.

Debris covers a car near after a tornado touched down at Donelson Christian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee March 3, 2020. Shelley Mays/The Tennessean via USA TODAY via REUTERS

Rescue teams were going door to door, searching damaged structures for trapped or injured individuals, the Nashville Fire Department said.

At least 30 people were injured in Nashville, the state capital, and least 48 buildings were destroyed, with many more damaged, Fire Department Director Chief William Swann said.

Tennessee is one 14 states that will be holding primary elections on Super Tuesday. Despite the widespread destruction, polling sites at schools and elsewhere will be open for voting unless otherwise noted, officials said.

“We want people to exercise their rights and get out there and vote,” Lee said.

Lightning that accompanied the tornado lit up the darkened sky as the storm rumbled through central Nashville, video posted on Twitter showed.

At daybreak, video footage on local television revealed leveled houses and crumbled businesses in Nashville, a city of 691,000.

Crushed vehicles, piles of debris and power lines snapped in two were strewn about, and rescue vehicles blocked streets as residents carried their belongings away from their destroyed homes.

The police department in the Mt. Juliet suburb east of Nashville reported multiple homes damaged and people injured.

“This was obviously a very strong tornado. There are multiple homes damaged, multiple people injured, multiple people still trapped,” Mt. Juliet Police Captain Tyler Chandler said in a video posted on Facebook. “We need your help. And that means if you can stay at your house, please stay home.”

SUPER TUESDAY

Schools, district offices and courts will close on Tuesday due to the tornado damage throughout Nashville, apart from the public buildings set to be used for polling.

Voting in Nashville and the surrounding area will start an hour later at 8 a.m. local time due to extensive storm damage, state election officials said. Polling will still close at 7 p.m., as earlier planned. Authorities will relocate some polling places.

Officials told residents of Nashville, among the country’s fastest-growing cities, to try not to travel, especially through the damaged areas.

Lee said he had spoken to the White House about federal assistance and that he planned to assess the damage in a helicopter on Tuesday.

“Prayers for all of those affected by the devastating tornadoes in Tennessee,” President Donald Trump said on Twitter. “We will continue to monitor the developments.”

The twister knocked down power lines, and one utility pole dangled horizontally in the street in the Donelson area, home to country music’s most famous concert stage, the Grand Ole Opry, news pictures showed.

Nashville Electric, the city’s public utility, said http://bit.ly/38dQBMo there were more than 44,000 customers without power early in the morning, with reported damage to four substations, 15 primary distribution lines, and multiple power poles and lines.

John C. Tune Airport (JWN), located 8 miles from downtown Nashville, “sustained significant damage” and several hangars were destroyed, the airport said on its website.

The National Weather Service said there were eight reported tornadoes that touched down in Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky.

This is not the first tornado to occur on Super Tuesday in Tennessee. In 2008, a nighttime tornado caused significant damage across the middle part of the state, the weather service said in a Twitter post.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

‘Very strong’ tornado rips through Nashville, killing at least nine

By Bhargav Acharya

(Reuters) – At least nine people were killed by a powerful tornado that struck Nashville, Tennessee in the early hours of Tuesday morning, flattening buildings, damaging an airport and leaving tens of thousands of people without power.

The fatalities included four people in Putnam County, two in the state capital Nashville, two in Wilson County and one in Benton County, ABC News reported, citing the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Search and rescue teams were out searching damaged structures for trapped or injured individuals, the Nashville Fire Department said. Earlier in the morning, the department had said it was responding to reports of approximately 40 collapses of structures around the city.

The police department in the Mt. Juliet suburb east of Nashville reported multiple homes damaged and people injured.

“This was obviously a very strong tornado. There are multiple homes damaged, multiple people injured, multiple people still trapped,” Mt. Juliet Police Captain Tyler Chandler said in a video posted on Facebook. “We need your help. And that means if you can stay at your house, please stay home.”

Schools, district offices and courts will be closed on Tuesday due to the tornado damage throughout Nashville, officials said, but election polling sites at schools and elsewhere will be open “unless otherwise noted.”

Tennessee is one 14 states that will be holding primary elections on Super Tuesday, but voting in Nashville and the surrounding area will start an hour later at 8 a.m. local time due to extensive storm damage, state election officials said. Polling will still close at 7 p.m., as earlier planned.

Some polling places will also be relocated, they said.

Nashville Electric, the city’s public utility, said http://bit.ly/38dQBMo there were more than 44,000 customers without power early in the morning, with reported damage to four substations, 15 primary distribution lines, and multiple power poles and lines.

John C. Tune Airport (JWN), located 8 miles from downtown Nashville, “sustained significant damage” due to severe weather and several hangars had been destroyed, the airport said on its website.

Lightning that accompanied the tornado lit up the darkened sky as the storm rumbled through central Nashville, according to video posted by Twitter user Brian Bates.

The twister knocked down power lines, and one utility pole dangled horizontally in the street in the Donelson area, home to country music’s most famous concert stage, the Grand Ole Opry, news pictures showed.

Images also showed rubble and debris scattered across the parking lot of the Donelson Christian Academy in Nashville.

This is not the first tornado to occur on Super Tuesday in Tennessee, according to the National Weather Service in Nashville.

“The one many remember is the 2008 Tornado Outbreak. That was also a nighttime tornado event (but AFTER the voting) that caused significant damage across Middle Tennessee,” the NWS said in a post on Twitter.

Nashville, with a population of 691,000, is among the country’s fastest-growing cities and is the informal country music capital of the United States.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Daniel Trotta and Maria Caspani; Editing by Peter Graff and Bernadette Baum)

Judge revokes bond for Nashville shooting suspect after public outcry

Travis Reinking, the suspect in a Waffle House shooting in Nashville, is under arrest by Metro Nashville Police Department in a wooded area in Antioch, Tennessee, U.S., April 23, 2018. Courtesy Metro Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – A Tennessee judge on Tuesday revoked a $2 million bond set for the man accused of opening fire at a Nashville-area Waffle House restaurant, killing four people, while new details emerged of the suspect’s struggles with paranoia and delusions.

Davidson County Judge Michael Mondelli did not give a reason for overturning the bond order issued by a night magistrate following the arrest of Travis Reinking, but his decision followed a public outcry over the possibility that the suspect could potentially be freed from jail.

The Nashville District Attorney’s office was “inundated with calls” from angry members of the public saying the shooting rampage suspect should not be released under any circumstances, spokesman Steve Hayslip said.

“The fact that he might be able to bond out set that fear and panic back in their hearts again,” Hayslip said.

Reinking, a 29-year-old construction worker with a history of erratic behavior and brushes with the law, was captured in woods outside Nashville on Monday after more than a day on the run and charged with four counts of murder.

A hearing set in the case for Wednesday was postponed until May 7. Jon Wing, a Davidson County public defender representing Reinking, did not respond to a request for comment.

Police say a nearly naked Reinking opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday at the Waffle House restaurant.

The gunman, who began shooting outside before moving inside, aborted his attack and fled when a customer, 29-year-old James Shaw Jr., wrestled the rifle from him in what authorities called an act of heroism.

Police say they still did not know what motivated the attack and that Reinking was not speaking to investigators.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall told reporters on Tuesday that the suspect was under medical observation and a suicide watch.

“We have to protect other inmates from him,” Hall said. “And we have to protect him from other inmates.”

Previous brushes with law enforcement show that Reinking appeared to struggle with delusions of being stalked by people, including pop star Taylor Swift.

Former colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Crane Service where Reinking worked in Salida, Colorado, told a Salida Police Department investigator this week that he was intelligent and quiet, but they worried about his mental health.

They described him as a loner who often played video games, especially ones that involve shooting, and that he was obsessed with Swift, according to a report released by Salida police. Reinking lived in Salida for six months starting in late 2016.

Reinking told everyone he was gay, which two colleagues said appeared to contradict his claims that he would someday marry the 28-year-old female singer.

“Travis was a good kid, very polite and a hard worker but a little off. It’s just unfortunate that he snapped,” John Turley, a mechanic at the Crane service, told Reuters in a telephone interview. “As the laws are written, he never should have had a gun. I feel sorry for everybody who is suffering.”

Reinking moved to Nashville in 2017 from Illinois. The U.S. Secret Service said it arrested him in Washington in July of last year after he attempted to get into the White House.

After that episode, authorities in Illinois revoked his gun license and confiscated four firearms, including what police said was the rifle used in the Waffle House shooting.

The guns were given to his father, Jeffrey Reinking, who told police he would lock them up and keep them away from his son at their home in Tazewell County, Illinois.

But the elder Reinking eventually returned the weapons to his son, Nashville police said on Sunday. The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office never took custody of the guns and was not investigating the matter, Chief Deputy Jeffrey Lower said in an email.

Marcus Watson, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Reinking’s father could face federal charges if he knowingly transferred weapons to a person who was prohibited from owning them. Jeffrey Reinking could not be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Brendan O’Brien and Keith Coffman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

Waffle House shooting suspect arrested by Nashville police

Travis Reinking, the suspect in a Waffle House shooting in Nashville, is under arrest by Metro Nashville Police Department in a wooded area in Antioch, Tennessee, U.S., April 23, 2018. Courtesy Metro Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – Nashville police on Monday arrested the suspect in the weekend killing of four people at a Waffle House restaurant, ending a manhunt that began when the gunman ran naked from the scene into nearby woods, authorities said.

Photos posted online by police showed Travis Reinking, a 29-year-old construction worker suspected of opening fire at the restaurant early Sunday, in the back of a police car. Looking disheveled, he was wearing a torn red shirt and dirty blue jeans, and had scratches on his shoulder.

Metro Davidson County Police inspect the truck of Travis Reinking, the suspected shooter, at the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

Metro Davidson County Police inspect the truck of Travis Reinking, the suspected shooter, at the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

Metropolitan Nashville police Lieutenant Carlos Lara said that as soon as a detective saw Reinking and ordered him to get on the ground, the suspect cooperated. “He did not try to run,” Lara told reporters in a news conference near the Waffle House.

The arrest ended a protracted search for the gunman, a man with a history of bizarre behavior who evaded capture for more than 30 hours after the shooting.

Police said they did not know what the gunman’s motive was in opening fire at the 24-hour chain restaurant. In addition to the four deaths, two people were injured in the attack.

“We need to move on as a community and do what we can to curb this violence,” Nashville Mayor David Briley told reporters.

Reinking, who had a handgun and ammunition in his backpack when he was arrested about two miles (3 km) from the Waffle House, immediately requested a lawyer and refused to answer questions, police said. He will be taken to a hospital for a checkup before being booked.

The suspect, who was originally from Illinois before moving to Nashville, will be booked on four counts of criminal homicide, police spokesman Don Aaron said.

Reinking had multiple encounters with law enforcement in recent years, including an episode in Washington in July 2017 where he was arrested for trying to get into the White House, according to police records.

Afterwards, Illinois authorities revoked his license to carry concealed weapons, but his father broke a promise to police and gave the suspect access to guns, authorities said.

The killings in Tennessee’s capital were the latest in a string of high-profile U.S. mass shootings in which a gunman used an AR-15 rifle. A nationwide debate on gun control has intensified since Feb. 14, when a former student killed 17 people with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In Reinking’s hometown in Tazewell County, Illinois, police released incident reports about Reinking from the last couple of years. They showed he had multiple encounters with law enforcement about his delusions that people, including singer Taylor Swift, were following him.

During the shootings, the suspect was wearing only a green jacket that he shed before leaving on foot, police said. That jacket contained two clips of ammunition for the assault-style rifle used in the shootings, police and school officials said.

After Reinking’s gun license was revoked, his father told police he would lock up his son’s guns, which they said included the AR-15 rifle used in the Waffle House shooting. But the father relented and returned the weapons to his son, Nashville police said on Sunday.

Marcus Watson, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Reinking’s father Jeffrey could face federal charges if he knowingly transferred weapons to a person who was prohibited from owning them.

Reinking is accused of shooting two people to death outside the restaurant around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, and killing two inside. The suspect fled after a 29-year-old diner, James Shaw Jr., wrestled the rifle from him.

Shaw, who was grazed by a bullet during the attack, was praised by authorities for his courage, but on Sunday he denied he was a hero. “I just wanted to live,” he said.

David Hogg, a Marjory Stoneman student and prominent leader in a student movement for gun control that has emerged from the Parkland, Florida, attack, used Shaw’s example to taunt the National Rifle Association, which lobbies for gun rights, on Twitter.

“So only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun?” Hogg wrote in a message directed at the NRA.

An NRA representative could not immediately be reached to comment.

(Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)

Waffle House suspect still at large a day after Nashville shooting; known to authorities

The truck of Travis Reinking, the suspected shooter, is loaded on a trailer ready to be towed from the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – There have been no credible sightings of the 29-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of four people at a Waffle House restaurant over the weekend, police said on Monday, as a manhunt pushed into its second day.

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

With the suspect still on the loose, Metro Nashville Police searched schools in the area near the restaurant in the Tennessee city’s Antioch neighborhood. Schools planned to open with extra security, police said, with a “lockout” barring all visitors in effect.

The suspected gunman, Travis Reinking, 29, originally from Tazewell County, Illinois, was last seen on Sunday morning wearing only black pants, police said. The suspect recently lived in an apartment not far from the 24-hour restaurant.

During the shootings, the suspect was wearing only a green jacket that he shed before leaving on foot, police said. That jacket contained two clips of ammunition for the assault-style rifle used in the shootings, police and school officials said.

The killings are the latest in a string of high-profile mass shootings in which a gunman used an AR-15 rifle. A nationwide debate on gun control has intensified since February, when a former student killed 17 people with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In Nashville, two people were shot dead outside the restaurant at about 3:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Sunday, and two were killed inside. The suspect fled after a 29-year-old diner, James Shaw Jr., wrestled the rifle from him. Police say Shaw probably saved several lives.

Shaw said he had retreated into a narrow hallway next to bathrooms at the Waffle House when the gunman entered the restaurant.

“I was just waiting for a chance, so when I saw the barrel down, I just saw my opportunity and I attacked,” Shaw told NBC-TV on Monday morning. He said he took the assault rifle from the suspect and threw it over a counter.

Shaw, who was grazed by a bullet during the attack, was praised by authorities for his courage, but on Sunday he denied he was a hero: “I just wanted to live,” he said.

Reinking was already known to authorities. He was arrested on the White House grounds by Secret Service officers in July 2017 and charged with unlawful entry after crossing a security barrier, the agency said in a statement.

Afterwards, authorities revoked Reinking’s Illinois authorization to have firearms and seized four guns, including the AR-15 used in the Waffle House shootings, Nashville police said. The guns were later returned to Reinking’s father, who has acknowledged giving them back to his son, police said.

By Monday, two of the four guns were unaccounted for. One was recovered during a search of Reinking’s apartment, police said.

Police said those killed were Waffle House cook Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and three patrons: Joe R. Perez, 20; DeEbony Groves, 21; and Akilah Dasilva, 23.

Two wounded patrons were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both listed in stable condition early on Monday. Others were cut by shattered glass.

(Writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York, and Keith Coffman in Denver; editing by Michael Perry, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

Police search schools in hunt for Nashville Waffle House shooter

Police hunting for a gunman who fled naked after killing four people at a Nashville Waffle House searched public schools through the night to make sure they would be safe when they reopen on Monday.

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – Police hunting for a gunman who fled naked after killing four people at a Nashville Waffle House searched public schools through the night to make sure they would be safe when they reopen on Monday.

All Metropolitan Nashville public schools were searched and will be checked again before school opens, officials said on the department’s Facebook page. Extra security will be in place at school bus stops. Schools will be on “lock-out,” barring all visitors.

“Metro Nashville Public Schools Parents always have the final decision on whether to send their child to school,” the statement said.

Police identified the victims. Slain outside the restaurant in Nashville’s Antioch neighborhood shortly before 3:30 a.m. Sunday were Waffle House cook Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29, and patron Joe R. Perez, 20, police said. Inside, the shooter killed patrons DeEbony Groves, 21, and Akilah Dasilva, 23.

“Please say a prayer for my family for today is the hardest day of my life. Me, my husband and sons are broken right now with this loss. Our lives are shattered,” Perez’s mother Trisha Perez posted on Facebook.

Dasilva’s mother Shaundelle Brooks told CBS News affiliate WTVF her son was a student at Middle Tennessee State University pursuing music engineering: “He meant the world to us. He was humble, kind, compassionate, outgoing and very creative.”

Groves was a Belmont University senior who studied social work and was described by her high school basketball coach Kim Kendrick on CBS News affiliate WTVF as a tenacious player.

Two wounded patrons, Shanita Waggoner, 21, and Sharita Henderson, 24, were being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both listed in stable condition early on Monday. Others were cut by shattered glass.

One diner, James Shaw Jr., 29, was grazed by a bullet as he hid near a restroom before he wrestled the AR-15 rifle from the gunman, police said. Police credited his action with saving lives. At a news conference, Shaw said he was no hero, adding: “I just wanted to live.”

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, is shown in this undated photo obtained April 22, 2018. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS

Metropolitan Nashville Police Field Captain Daniel Newbern said the suspected shooter, Travis Reinking, 29, originally from Tazewell County, Illinois, faces multiple murder charges. Police believe he is still armed with a pistol.

Police disclosed no known motive for the attack by Reinking, who was naked except for a green jacket when he got out of his pickup truck and started shooting.

As the shooter ran off, he discarded the jacket, which contained two additional ammunition magazines for the AR-15, according to police.

(Writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York, and Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Michael Perry and Bernadette Baum)

Masked gunman kills woman, wounds several others at Nashville church

The scene where people were injured when gunfire erupted at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., September 24, 2017. Metro Nashville Police Departmen

By Jonathan Allen and Frank McGurty

(Reuters) – A masked gunman killed a woman in the parking lot of a Tennessee church on Sunday morning and wounded six worshipers inside the building before shooting himself in a scuffle with an usher who rushed to stop the attack.

The shooter, identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, walked into Nashville’s Burnette Chapel Church of Christ wearing a ski mask and opened fire, Metropolitan Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters.

As the church usher grappled with the suspect, he was struck in the head with the gunman’s weapon before the suspect fired and wounded himself in the chest, police said.

Although injured, the usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle, then retrieved a gun from his vehicle, re-entered the sanctuary and held the suspect at bay until police arrived.

“This is an exceptionally brave individual,” Aaron said of the usher during a briefing outside the church in Antioch, about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of downtown Nashville.

About 50 people were worshipping at the church when the gunman entered. Samson was armed with two pistols and had another handgun and a rifle in his sport utility vehicle, according to a police statement.

Police had not determined the motive behind the shooting, but the spokesman said evidence was found that might establish why the man opened fire.

Church members told investigators Samson attended the church in the past, but not recently, Nashville police said in a statement.

Samson was charged with murder, and authorities planned to bring other charges against him, police said.

A churchgoer, Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tennessee, was fatally shot in the parking lot, where she was found lying next to the suspect’s blue SUV.

All but one of the six people wounded by gunfire were 60 or older and were taken to nearby hospitals, said Nashville Fire Department spokesman Joseph Pleasant. At least some of the wounded were in critical condition, he said.

The church’s pastor, Joey Spann, was shot in the chest and was being treated at a hospital, WKRN television news channel reported, citing the pastor’s son. The Nashville Christian School, where Spann is a coach and Bible teacher, said Spann’s wife also was injured.

Samson was treated at a hospital and transferred to a jail. In a photo released by police, he was shown walking in blue hospital garb, as police officers led him along a walkway.

 

 

(Reporting by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Allen in New York, Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Mary Milliken and Simon Cameron-Moore)