Nashville church gunman may have wanted revenge for Charleston

Emanuel Kidega Samson, the man who murdered a woman at a small Nashville church Sunday, may have been motivated by revenge. When I wrote about the unfolding story, I noted that police hinted at having some information about Samson’s motive which they were not ready to discuss. Today, the Associated Press reports there was a letter found in his car which mentioned the 2015 shooting at a church in Charleson, South Carolina by racist gunman Dylann Roof:

A note found in the car of a man charged with spraying deadly gunfire at a Tennessee church made reference to revenge for a white supremacist’s massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, two years earlier, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press…

The Associated Press has not viewed the note, but it was summarized in an investigative report circulating among law enforcement. Two officials read to AP from the note.

The report said that “in sum and in no way verbatim,” the note referenced revenge or retaliation for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church in 2015 and has since been sentenced to death.

There are a lot of caveats here starting with the fact that no one has been authorized to speak about this, so this is a leak of partial information that may not be giving us the whole picture. Also, the AP hasn’t seen the letter, only heard elements of a report mentioning it.

Still, there are reasons to think this might make sense of a shooting that otherwise seems difficult to explain. For one thing, the US Attorney’s Office opened a civil rights investigation into this case almost immediately. Maybe that was perfunctory or maybe the office was reacting to the discovery of the letter. Also, Samson’s rage didn’t appear to be directed at a particular person. The first person he killed was simply walking to her car. Once inside he is said to have aimed with no particular goal. Finally, there’s the obvious fact that the majority of people at the church Samson targeted are white and he is black, the reverse of the shooting in Charleston.

With something this explosive, supposition shouldn’t get too far ahead of the facts. Still, if the AP report turns out to be accurate and some kind of racial revenge was a motive or the motive here, then this case is worse than it already appeared. Remember that according to his friends, Dylann Roof’s goal was not just to kill people but to spark a race war. Emanuel Samson could turn out to be the ugly proof that he succeeded.