On Sunday, September 24, 2017, a masked man attacked the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee (a suburb of Nashville) with a gun, killing one woman and injuring seven others, in addition to injuring himself. Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) condemns this act of violence and hate; our research leads R.E.A.L. to believe this was not a random act of violence, and based on our research, it is R.E.A.L.’s conclusion this attack was performed by a supporter of black nationalist hate.
The attacker, 25 year old, Emanuel Kidega Samson, a U.S. resident from Sudan, shot one woman to death in the church parking lot, Melanie Smith, and then sought to attack Christians in the church as the Sunday services were ending. After killing Melanie Smith in the parking lot, the armed attacker then entered the church, where he was confronted by the church usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle. The attacker pistol-whipped Robert Engle, who received a “significant injury to his head.” Then the attacker continued to shoot Christian worshipers in the church, shooting six others, including the pastor, his wife, and four other elderly worshipers. During the mass shooting, many of the 42 Christians in the church hid and ducked under church pews, while the attacker sought to gun people down. Some hid in a child’s worship room, which a 10 year old child helped to barricade.
The attacker shot the Christian worshipers using a .40-caliber handgun, firing 12 rounds, and reloading the gun at least once, according to police spokesman Don Aaron. The police stated that the attacker also wore a tactical vest with three additional magazines of ammunition. In the SUV that he kept idling to escape after attacking the church, the attacker also had an unloaded semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and an additional handgun. The police also stated that he had “many more rounds [of ammunition] available.”
Church usher Robert Engle recovered from his injury, and raced out to his own automobile to retrieve his own licensed gun to protect the Christian congregation. Robert Engle returned and held the attacker, Emanuel Kidega Samson, until police arrived. During Engle’s initial struggle with the attacker, Samson shot himself by accident. Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said of Robert Engle, “He’s the hero. He’s the person who stopped this madness.”
The attacker, Emanuel Kidega Samson, received medical treatment, then was placed in police custody. He has currently been charged with one count of murder, and additional charges, including attempted murder, are expected by the police. A judicial commissioner has ordered that Emanuel Kidega Samson be held without bond pending further court proceedings. The latest report states that the attacker did not appear for a preliminary hearing, which was rescheduled for October 6, 2017. (Update: at the October 6, 2017 court hearing, the preliminary hearing was again rescheduled to October 23, per the Tennesseean: “During a brief hearing Friday, Davidson County General Sessions Judge Dianne Turner set Samson’s preliminary hearing for Oct. 23.”)
The Memphis FBI Field Office’s Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting. Tennessee police had previously been involved with Emanuel Kidega Samson in January 2017 over a domestic dispute, in March 2017 when he was accused of trying to force entry into a home of woman who claimed he had hit her, and in June 2017, when police checked on Samson after receiving a report that he had sent his father a suicidal text message.
The victims were of this attack were all white, adult, Christians, and most of them were elderly and women. The attacker killed Melanie Smith, 39 years old, outside of the church. Inside the church, he shot Pastor Joey Spann (David Joseph Spann) (66), his wife Peggy Spann (65), Linda Bush (68), Catherine C. Dickerson (64), William “Don” Jenkins (84), and his wife Marlene Jenkins (84). The attacker also injured church usher, Robert Engle (25), during the attack. The Burnette Chapel Church of Christ was a multi-ethnic and multi-racial house of worship. All of the victims of this attack were white. Five victims in the hospital are in stable condition. Pastor Joey Spann, who was shot in the chest, had been in critical condition, but his condition has since improved. R.E.A.L. expresses our concerns and shares our prayers for the victims and the loved ones of this vicious attack.
The attacker, Emanuel Kidega Samson, a black male, is not a U.S. citizen, but has been living as a U.S. resident since the 1990s. The attacker Samson had previously identified himself as a Christian, despite recent religious and social views, as documented on his social media Facebook account, researched by R.E.A.L. After the attack, local News Channel 5 reported that “you don’t see on his social media accounts is anything that would suggest terrorism as a possible motive.” R.E.A.L.’s investigation shows a different pattern and a growing public support of extremist views by the attacker on social media, including a recent post by an extremist attacking “Jesus” as “dumb a** sh**.”
Five years ago, the attacker publicly identified himself as a Christian. But by 2017, the attacker had been increasingly posting messages about the Black Panthers black nationalist and extremist group (whose 20th century members were responsible for terror attacks in the U.S.) and promoting messages by the Anonymous hacker criminal group.
Based on R.E.A.L.’s research of the attackers’ social media and the fact that only white Christians were targeted in this attack, R.E.A.L. would conclude that there is a high chance that the attack was motivated by black nationalist extremist views. If so, this would be the fifth such black nationalist terrorist attack in the past 14 months.
Previous black nationalist extremist terror attacks in the U.S. have included: (1) April 18, 2017 Fresno, California terror attack by NOI activist Kori Ali Muhammad (killing three whites in the streets of Fresno and a fourth hotel guard), (2) July 17, 2016 terror attack in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by Gavin Eugene Long (acknowledged former NOI extremist) (killing three police officers), (3) July 8, 2016 terror attack in Bristol, Tennessee, by Lakeem Keon Scott (targeting whites on a highway, killing 1 woman and injuring three others), and (4) July 7, 2016 terror attack in Dallas, Texas by Micah Johnson (linked to NOI extremist) and supporter of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) and Black Riders Liberation Party (killing 5 and injuring 11). In these four black nationalist-associated terror attacks, all of the victims killed were white, except for one of the Baton Rouge police officers.
By August 2, 2017, the attacker’s embrace of black nationalist extremists included posting a video where the speaker shouted about how black Americans should not “bring me Jesus and that dumb a** sh**,” while warning about “Europeans infecting us.” This was posted by African Diaspora culture activist Ankh Ma’at Ra, who distributes a number of videos, which would be considered part of the Pan-Africanist or Black Nationalist Consciousness Community/Movement (CC) ideology. The interview was recorded by “black consciousness” activist “Sa Neter,” who promotes such ideologies through videos shared on YouTube and Social Media, which he publishes on behalf of a “House of Konsciousness” (HOK) movement. “Sa Neter” has also defended black nationalist and virulent racist Louis Farrakhan, who leads the “Nation of Islam” (NOI) extremists, although as part of the Consciouness Community” movement, “Sa Neter” appears to have different religious views. Ankh Ma’at Ra offers alternatives on religious views including rejecting the concept to “love your enemy.” “Sa Neter” has also distribued videos on “Black News 101” (which was terminated by YouTube), including interviews of individuals promoting black nationalist violence, and was re-established as “Black News 102.” The Sa Neter videos promote a broad range of black nationalist and pan-African views from diverse views of New Black Panthers, Kemetic, Hebrew Israelite, Moorish Science Temple, and Nation of Islam perspectives.
While the corporate media is reporting on the attacker’s body-building photos, the increasing migration of the attacker’s public postings to focus on topics from conspiracy sites on a general “the West is attacking Africa and Africans” type of message is being generally ignored. The tone of his social media postings begin to change in December 2015.
In the days before his attack on the church, the attacker called for people to “join his rebellion,” with postings that also stated: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.” He stated “Become the creator instead of what’s created. Whatever you say, goes.” He wrote“You are more than what they told us.” By August 30, 2017, he wrote: “Every single legend before me was just a false alarm. Every single thought that you think you think you thought is wrong. Crawling through hell with gasoline garments on, army-strong, barel to the devil this is the rebirth of Kong.” By August 15, 2017, he wrote about the darkened sun by the solar eclipse, “Join my rebellion and gaze into that mf with 0 **’s given, dawg.” On August 2, 2017, he posted a video from a black nationalist activist “Sa Neter,” who works out of New York City. “Sa Neter” interviewed another “Africa Stand Up” activist who described the failure to support black Americans, and called for black Americans to understand their community, including by rejecting Jesus Christ.
He also began projecting that because the names of hurricanes were quickly given with reports about such natural disasters that unknown powers conspired knew about these way in advance. (Weather conspiracy theories are frequent among posting of black nationalist extremists supporting the Nation of Islam.)
The attacker’s social media showed an increasing focus on extremist conspiracy issues, hate of police, support for the Black Panther extremist group (associated with other attacks), including posting report on calls by Black Panther extremists to “tell Blacks to ‘Arm up’,” and posting report on reported “execution” of Black Panther extremists by the police, stating “Police murder a Black Panther general execution style and try to cover it up.” The attacker continued to distance his focus on Christianity, as pan-African and black nationalist activists offered alternative views on America and the West.
The attacker increasingly also posted anti-West conspiracy theories; he posted on how “1 Trillion Stolen from Africa in 50 years and Diverted to Western Countries Illegally.” He posted on how the U.S. Government has lied in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, posted on how “Doctors who discovered cancer enzymes in vaccines have been murdered,” posted on “Woman leading Flint lead poisoning lawsuit found shot dead in her home.” With such posts, the attacker wrote text like “I believe in incidents, not accidents. There has never been such a thing as “by chance ” & nor will there ever will be.”
While this case will continue to be investigated by law enforcement authorities, R.E.A.L. urges the investigators not to discount what would appear to be links in the support of the armed Black Panther movement (viewed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – SPLC) , and other black nationalist anti-white hate as motivations behind the attack, killing, and targeted shootings at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.
R.E.A.L. has noted an significant increase in black nationalist hate and violence in the past year, and as previously noted multiple terror attacks linked to black nationalist views over the past 14 months. On August 8, 2017, the SPLC also reported on an increased trend of black nationalist violence, in an article titled “Return of the Violent Black Nationalist Violence.” In the August 8, 2017 SPLC report, the SPLC stated that: “Since 2000, the number of Black Nationalist groups in the United States has jumped dramatically from 48 groups to 193 in 2016.” In this this report, the SPLC notes the violence from the Fresno, Dallas, and Baton Rouge attacks, and states that “the U.S. has not experienced this level of violent Black Nationalism in nearly 40 years.”
According to the SPLC report, “The Black Nationalist Movement represents a swath of antigovernment, anti-police, racist, and radical religious ideologies. While organized groups have refrained from violence, they attract adherents (e.g. ‘lone wolves’) who are motivated to commit violence, criminal behavior, or other subversive acts as a result of Black Nationalism’s radical ideology. As a result, lone individuals prone to violence who are affiliated with Black Nationalism, pose a potential threat to law enforcement, government officials and others. Like other domestic extremists, the merging of antigovernment, racist and religious extremist ideologies is cause for concern. Historically, this convergence of extremist beliefs serves as a catalyst for radicalization and mobilization towards violent action for some members and affiliates.” The SPLC report describes that “Black Nationalist Groups of Concern,” which the SPLC states “attract violent individuals whom they indoctrinate and push toward extremism,” including: Nation of Islam (NOI), New Black Panther Party (NBPP), New Black Panther Nation (NBPN), New Black Liberation Militia (NBLM), Five Percent Nation (based out of Harlem), Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI), and the Moorish Nation (linked to Sovereign Citizen Extremists – SCE). Dallas terrorist Micah Xavier Johnson was a member of the New Black Panther Party. According to the ADL, terrorist Gavin Long was also associated with the “Moorish Sovereign Citizens” SCE. There is a similar group known as the “Nuwaubian Nation.”
In the attack on the Antioch church, the law enforcement investigation must continue. However, as R.E.A.L. has shown, the attacker had sympathy with at least the Black Panther Party described in this SPLC report.
This remains not only a counterterrorism security issue, but also a human rights issue for Americans to address, which is particularly compounded in the U.S. due to public concerns of cases involving police abuse of authority. When increasing public sympathy support black nationalist extremism, the security and human rights are compounded by a disinterest and unwillingness to hear messages to reject extremist views and to support nonviolence solutions for human rights progress.
Among Emanuel Kidega Samson’s 4,700+ followers on Facebook, virtually none of them have “un-friended” him, over a day after his attack on Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. Three of his followers publicly asked him why he did this or condemned the attack on his Facebook timeline.
In addition, once again, we see yet another attacker in the U.S., who had been working as a security guard. The night before his attack on the Antioch Christian church, the attacker worked as an unarmed security guard with Crimson Security of Murfreesboro. Channel 17 News also reports that he was in the process of working to renew his license as a security guard with the Academy of Personal Protection and Security. For context, R.E.A.L. has pointed out previous terrorist attacks in the U.S. by current or former security guards in Orlando (Omar Mateen, G4S), St.Cloud, MN (Dahir A. Adan – Securitas), NYC and New Jersey (Ahmad Raham – Summit Security), and Fort Lauderdale, FL (Esteban Santiago – Signal 88). This attack in Antioch is the fifth known attack on U.S. by a trusted security guard.
The human rights challenge to black nationalist violence requires a recognition of the need to support both belief and identity systems, as well as provide leadership in activist solutions for nonviolence in promoting human rights change.
For the U.S., cultural challenges and religious challenges are mixed together without clear and consistent leadership to provide inspirational and identity leadership to frustrated individuals. Among many frustrated black and African-Americans, there are not only extremists, but also those similarly frustrated indivividuals, who are indicating that “Christianity” is a “white” religion, and this remains a struggle in social coherency during increasing times of social and racial unrest. A number of individuals get drawn to the “Nation of Islam” extremist movement, simply because of its strength in leadership and its defiance to “white America,” despite and/or because of the NOI’s racist views.
Religious and cultural analyst Adam Coleman explains that ineffectiveness among some traditional U.S. Christian organizations have made frustrated black and African-American searching for additional sources of inspiration. According to the analyst Adam Coleman, the “Consciousness Community” (CC) includes “is a rather nebulous entity. There are a few main belief systems that people who consider themselves to be conscious tend to subscribe to, but no formal creed or organization around which the CC revolves. These include the Hebrew Israelites, Moorish Scientists, Egyptian (Kemetic) spiritualists, and practitioners of African mysticism.” He states: “Each of these groups purport to solve the identity problem, faced by people of African descent, by restoring the individual to their true identity. The primary draw for these groups is that rather than simply offering an alternative belief system, they offer an identity system.” He states: “Those who consider themselves ‘conscious’ typically take on some form of Pan-Africanist or Black Nationalist ideology. That is to say they hope to reclaim control of Africa’s resources and establish an autonomous nation of African people including those of the Diaspora.” In addition, he states that “Among the CC, anti-Caucasian sentiment ranges from latent resentment to violent aversion. By extension, Western society as a whole is viewed as a power structure that is bent on subduing people of color.”
R.E.A.L. has previously also identified this shortcoming within the Christian and faith-other based leadership, to offer activist guidance and solutions to those that claim that nonviolence is not a solution. As R.E.A.L. described in our report “Compassion And Nonviolence Leadership For Racial Justice” on April 25, 2017, “America needs such leaders of compassion and nonviolence today, in our important national issues of racial justice.” In the Autobiography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he described the essential need to leverage the new revolution of nonviolence as a solution to supporting racial justice in America. In Chapter 29 of this autobiography, pages 328 to 330, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. explained that “Before this century, virtually all revolutions had been based on hope and hate…. What was new about Mahatma Gandhi’s movement in India was that he mounted a revolution based on hope and love, hope and nonviolence.” This was the model that Reverend King sought to use to bring change to racial equality in America. Reverend King explained “As long as long as the hope was fulfilled there was little questioning of nonviolence.” But when hopes were not realized, some came to despair and sought other ways for change. Reverend King stated that “revolution, though born of despair, cannot be sustained by despair. This was the ultimate contradiction of the Black Power movement.” He explained that hope was essential for any campaign for long-term change. Reverend King rejected the “blatantly illogical” answer by some promoting violence and “overthrowing racist state and local governments.” He concluded “nonviolence is power, but it is the right and good use of power,” in support of human rights and racial equality for all Americans.
Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) reject all hate-based and terrorist violence, as we have provided reports on many other terrorist violence and attacks, including the recent terrorist attack and violence in Charlottesville, Viriginia. Responsible supporter of human rights, dignity, and shared public security must unequivocally condemn all such violence and terrorism, no matter what the ideological justification, including the increasing number of violent black nationalist attacks that we have seen in the United States of America. Violent attacks on our fellow human beings are wrong, and we must set a consistent standard of rejection and condemnation for such violence and hate. To work to change the atmosphere of violence and hate, while some may call for forgiveness of brutal violence, we must clearly condemn such acts of murder and violence, and enforce our laws to make it clear such actions can never be accepted by our society. The continuing challenges of racial equality and justice in America can never justify the violence and terrorism that we have continued to see. Those solutions cannot be based on hate, but must find an understanding of our societal needs to end the causes of such violence. We must, as a nation, work towards solutions of nonviolence for all Americans.
Choose Love, Not Hate. Love Wins.