By Mark Ellis, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ANTIOCH, TN (ANS – September 27, 2017) — Gloria Riches, 85, never misses a Sunday at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee. But on the morning when a Sudanese immigrant shot seven people and killed one woman, Gloria was uncharacteristically absent.
“I haven’t missed a Sunday in six months,” Gloria says. “But I did not feel well.”
The pew where Gloria sits would have placed her in the path of the shooter. “God took care of me yesterday,” she says. “I would have been right there.”
She got an urgent phone call at 11:15 Sunday morning from a close friend who had just witnessed the first woman shot outside the church. “She was hysterical; as she was getting in her car, she saw someone fall in front.”
Gloria knows the alleged shooter, identified as Emanuel Samson, 25. Samson is a legal U.S. resident who came from Sudan in 1996. “He hadn’t been to church in about 3 years,” she notes.
He was one of four Sudanese immigrants who attended the church “on and off” for several years.
“They always came in late and marched right up to the amen corner,” she recalls. She talked with them numerous times, but found their English-skills were lacking.
“They were very active in our Vacation Bible School. They took starring roles one summer. They were really very active.”
Gloria does not believe it was a random shooting. “He knew what he was doing. The girl he killed was shot first, she was going to her car because she was outside. He shot her first and then she went in the side door.”
The church had a big split several years ago, or there could have been more people present. “It has gradually weakened so we’re not having more than 40-60 people on Sunday,” she says.
The 22-year-old usher, Robert Caleb Engle, who tackled the shooter, is being called a hero. “The young man that saved the day is the finest guy. He has been going to the church since he was a little boy. He’s the kind that comes up and hugs me every Sunday.”
Photo captions: 1) How CNN initially reported the church shooting. 2) The alleged shooter, Emanuel Samson. 3) Ieshea White and Kimberly Stallworth embrace their uncle and brother Roger Bracey, who was at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ when shots were fired Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Antioch, Tenn. They were reunited at another nearby church. (Photo: Shelley Mays / The Tennessean). 4) Mark Ellis.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), and is also the founder of www.GodReports.com, a website that shares testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions. Previously, Mark co-hosted a TV show called “Windows on the World” with ANS Founder, Dan Wooding, aired on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv), which is now co-hosted by Dr. Garry Ansdell, Senior Pastor of Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, California.
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