Man Who Ended Tennessee Church Shooting Says Police, First Responders Were True Heroes

'The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected'

Law enforcement continues their investigation around the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ on September 24 in Antioch, Tennessee
Law enforcement continues their investigation around the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ on Sept. 24 in Antioch, Tenn. / Getty Images
September 25, 2017

The man who put an end to a church shooting in Tennessee after retrieving his own gun praised police and first responders as heroes on Sunday.

Caleb Engle, 22, was at service in Burnette Chapel Church of Christ on Sunday morning when 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson arrived in the parking lot wearing a mask and carrying a number of guns. As Samson approached the church he encountered 39-year-old Melanie Crow Smith and murdered her. He then entered the church and shot six more people, including the church's pastor and his wife.

As Samson was shooting, Engle confronted him and struggled with him in an effort to stop him. During the struggle, Samson used the gun to pistol-whip Engle in the head. Samson was then shot in his chest with his own gun, News Channel 5 reported.

The shot reportedly incapacitated Samson, which gave Engle enough time to retrieve his own gun from his car. He then returned to the church and held Samson at gunpoint until police arrived on the scene.

Engle deflected the idea that he is a hero for his actions.

"I do not want to be labeled a hero," he said. "The real heroes are the police, first responders, and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected."

Samson had attended the church in the past but the motive for the attack remains unknown. Engle said he never expected the church to be attacked but asked for everyone to pray for those affected, including the attacker and his family.

"I've been going to this church my whole life, since I was a small child," he said in a statement. "I would have never, ever thought something like this would have happened. I ask everyone to pray for the victims, family members of the victims, our church community. Please pray for healing. Also, please pray for the shooter, the shooter’s family and friends. They are hurting as well.

"I pray that through all of this that people will come to know Christ and I ask our nation to reflect on Romans 8:31: 'If God is for us, who can be against us?'"

Local police told News Channel 5 they would be filing murder and multiple assault charges against Samson.

"The Memphis FBI Field Office's Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee," David Boling, spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Nashville, told the Tennessean. "The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence. As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time."

Samson was treated at a local hospital and released back to police custody on Sunday.

Five of the victims remained at the hospital on Monday but all were in stable condition. Engle and another victim were treated and released on Sunday. He asked for privacy for all affected by the attack.