NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A black man accused of fatally shooting a white woman and wounding six other people at a Tennessee church in September pleaded not guilty through his attorney Wednesday to charges in a 43-count indictment including first-degree murder, attempted murder and felony civil rights intimidation.
In Davidson County Criminal Court, attorney Jennifer Thompson entered the plea on behalf of 26-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson during the arraignment on charges in the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ shooting in Nashville. Samson was not in court Wednesday and has not yet appeared in court. He was indicted this month.
An arrest affidavit says Samson waived his rights and told police he arrived armed and fired at Burnette in September. The Sunday shooting rampage killed 38-year-old Melanie L. Crow of Smyrna, Tennessee. She was shot in the church parking lot.
All of the victims in the church shooting were white, but authorities have not definitively said whether or not they believe Samson specifically targeted them based on their race. The indictment doesn't specify which civil rights were infringed upon.
In October, Nashville Police Detective Steve Jolley testified that a note in Samson's car referred to a white supremacist's 2015 massacre at a South Carolina black church.
The note found on the dashboard read something like, "Dylann Roof was less than nothing," Jolley said.
Jolley said Samson also told him he didn't give much thought to race or religion, and heard voices and had visions.
According to police records, Samson struggled to hold a job, had a volatile relationship with a woman that twice involved police and also had expressed suicidal thoughts in June.
Authorities have said Samson came to the U.S. from Sudan as a child in 1996 and is a U.S. citizen.
The FBI and U.S. attorney's office in Nashville quickly opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.