NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The trial for the man accused of fatally shooting a woman and wounding seven people at an Antioch church is underway in a Davidson County courtroom.
Emanuel Samson watched as members of Burnette Chapel Church testified about what they saw and heard on the day of the shooting.
Minister Joe Spann gave a low-keyed but dramatic account of what happened.
He said he was outside when he heard the gunshots. Then he saw the gunman:
“I saw a black mask. I saw a gun. I stepped back in church and yelled for people to run. He’s still shooting and the gunshots were loud. It was like slow motion.”
Spann was shot in the chest. The bullet also hit his right index finger. He said his finger was dangling. He said he fell to the floor.
His saw his wife on the floor. She had been shot, too. His wife yelled for him. He said he thought he was dying.
“He’s killed me. I’m sorry I’m dying,” he told his wife.
“I laid back against the wall. Everything was fading.”
Spann lost his finger. And despite the gunshot to the chest, he was able to leave the hospital after 4 days.
Spann’s wife, Peggy, was shot in the leg. She remembers communicating with her husband.
“I heard him say he’s killed me. I’m dying,” she said. “We told each other we loved each other. “
Emanuel Sampson faces 43 charges, including murder, in the trial that started Monday morning.
The prosecution’s first witness was Breana Smith, daughter of Melanie Crow-Smith, who was shot and killed outside the church. Breana Smith was crying as she shared a photo of her mother. She testified that she was supposed to go to church with her mother that morning but did not.
Catherine Dickerson took the stand and testified in a soft voice how she saw a man in a ski mask and goggles holding a gun.
As she was entering the church she was shot in the left leg. She said she crawled over to a wall under a water fountain, laid down and played dead, putting her purse over her face because “I wanted to look dead.”
She said she was worried that no one had called 911 and thought, “How long is it gonna be before they find us.”
When police and medics arrived, Dickerson said she told them to tend to the other people who were wounded first.
Dickerson stepped down from the stand to show witnesses the scar from the bullet wound on her left thigh.
- Catherine Dickerson’s full testimony is attached above.
Next witness, Alicia Leach. She was in her truck after church and was talking to Catherin Dickerson. She said she heard something that sounded like firecrackers. “It was like ‘pow, pow, pow,” she said.
Dickerson yelled gun and ran. Leach says she look and saw a man with a gun. She said he was holding the gun in front of him and kept walking. He locked eyes with her and Leach froze. At first she was going to run into the church, but then she heard the pastor yelling and the gunman’s attention was redirected.
She said she drove until she saw someone and began screaming at a woman to call 911. “There’s a guy killing everyone in my church. I think he killed my mom.”
- Alicia Leach’s full testimony is attached above
Her mother, Joyce Leach, was not hurt. She testified from a wheelchair. She says she dropped under the pew where she was sitting and curled up in a ball. She heard shots and saw people running.
Prosecutors have said they’re seeking life without parole for 27-year-old Emanuel Samson.
Samson is listening to testimony
Samson faces a 43-count indictment, including a first-degree murder charge, in the September 2017 shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.
An arrest affidavit says Samson waived his rights and told police he arrived armed and fired at the church.
A psychiatrist has diagnosed Samson with “schizoaffective disorder bipolar type” and post-traumatic stress disorder after an abusive, violent upbringing.
Minister Joey Spann was one of six people shot that Sunday morning when authorities say Samson open fired on the church.
“I got shot in the chest when he came in the door,” Spann said, “My wife was shot in the leg, and a couple other members were shot a couple times in the leg, another one in the arm, then he was tackled and brought down in there, and then the gun went off and he shot himself in the stomach.”
A prayer garden now lies beside the church where the victim 38-year-old Melanie Crow Smith died.
“She was gonna go out to her car and get a cough drop, so she went on out to her car and then we heard the shots ring out,” Spann recalled.
More than a year and a half later, Spann and the other survivors will now have to testify in court, sitting directly across from the accused gunman.
“A little bit of a dread,” Spann said, “We have some members who it’s bringing back feelings and things, it’s not something we’re looking forward to, it’s something we’re just gonna do.”