Emanuel K. Samson is currently on trial for killing a woman outside of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, TN in 2017 and prosecutors revealed on Monday what they believed to be his motivations.
Samson wanted “to murder a minimum of 10 white churchgoers,” said Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter in an opening statement at the beginning of the trial. Hunter also revealed details from a note left on the dashboard of Samon’s car that revealed his alleged reason for walking into a church with a gun with the intent to kill.
Hunter said the note revealed Samson’s desire to kill white churchgoers came out of a desire for revenge for a 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine black churchgoers dead. White supremacist Dylann Roof committed those murders.
According to police, Samson fatally shot Melanie Crowe outside of the Antioch church in the parking lot on Sept. 24, 2017. Samson shot her after Sunday service and after shooting her, he entered the church and injured several other people.
Samson’s lawyer is not arguing against the charges of Samson killing and injuring others. She is, however, arguing that his intent is not as the state is painting it.
“The intent is not the way the state says,” Jennifer Thompson, Samson’s defense attorney, said in her opening statement. She said Samson was suicidal that day and wanted to die.
“He wanted to die that day,” she said.
The debate at the center of this trial is whether or not Samson’s actions were planned or not. Prosecutors say the note left by Samson prove they were. Samson’s defense is that everything was spontaneous. Samson’s punishment could be much harsher if the state proves his actions were premeditated.
Samson’s defense attorney introduced a phone call the shooter made to his father months before the shooting where he confessed to being suicidal.
Police and witnesses described a horrifying scene at the church when called to testify on Monday.
“I thought he was going to come around the car and kill me,” witness Alecia Leach said. She described being in her car when she heard a gun go off. She claimed she locked eyes with Samson who she said was wearing a mask and sunglasses. She said she thought his movements were “very deliberate.”
Catherine Dickerson, another Burnette Chapel goer, described to the court her experience of running and behind shot at by Samson.
“This is the dress I was shot in,” she said at one point. Dickerson even lifted her dress before finishing her testimony to show the jury the bullet wound on her leg.
Churchgoer Joyce Leach, who uses a walker, also described being “curled up into a little knot” under a pew when she heard gunfire.
Among the seven injured by Samson were minister Joey Spann and usher Robert Engle. Engle was hit with a pistol by Samson after restraining him.
Samson is facing 43 charges including civil rights intimidation and first degree murder.
Police say Samson used .40 caliber and 9mm handguns during the attack. He also had another handgun and an unloaded AR-15 in his vehicle.
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