Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 20, 2019
Emanuel K. Samson, the black man suspected in a 2017 mass shooting at an Antioch church, went there “with the intent to murder a minimum of 10 white churchgoers,” a prosecutor said Monday.
During opening statements in the trial against Samson, Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter said he left a note on the dashboard of his vehicle explaining his plans to retaliate for a 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, when white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine black worshipers.
The note said “Dylann Roof is less than nothing,” and referenced “the blood that 10 of your kind will shed … in terms of vengeance,” according to portions Hunter read out loud in court.
Prosecutors are seeking an enhanced sentence of life without parole. The death penalty is not on the table in this case.
Prosecutors had called 15 witnesses by Monday afternoon, among them police officers, witnesses and victims—including the church’s minister and the man who tackled the suspect.
Trial brings new details into focus
Lawyers gave a broad outline of their evidence during opening statements, presenting the clearest picture yet of a case that has been shrouded in secrecy for months.
Hunter’s opening for the state emphasized the planning that she said went in to the shooting—she said “a mountain of evidence” supported her assertion that the shooting was premeditated.
She pointed out that Samson had attended Burnette Chapel and knew the people there. She drew attention to the mask and black jacket police said he had on, which made him unrecognizable.
She showed jurors a picture of the T-shirt investigators said he wore underneath, which showed gun targets shaped like people. And she described multiple guns and ammunition police say Samson brought with him to the church.
Hunter suggested more people would have been hurt if “true-life hero” and church member Caleb Engle hadn’t intervened and tackled the shooter. She said Samson had reloaded his gun just before Engle stopped him.