Mr. Engle late on Sunday issued a statement asking people to pray for the victims, their families and the church community as well as the gunman and his family and friends, who “are hurting as well.”
“I do not want to be labeled a hero,” said Mr. Engle, who the police said sustained a “significant injury” to his head. “The real heroes are the police, first responders, and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.”
The gunman was identified as Emanuel K. Samson, 25, of Rutherford County, Tenn. After being released from the hospital, he was taken to jail and was to be charged with murder and attempted murder, the police said on Sunday night.
The Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Mr. Samson, a legal resident of the United States who immigrated from Sudan in the 1990s, had attended the church a year or two ago, the police said, but his motive in the shooting was unclear. No one answered the phone at two numbers associated with his address.
Less than an hour before the shooting, three cryptic posts were made in quick succession on a Facebook page associated with Mr. Samson.
“You are more than what they told us,” read one posted at 10:18 a.m.
Four minutes later: “Become the creator instead of what’s created. Whatever you say, goes.”
And finally, at 10:26: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.”
Mr. Samson pulled up to the church in a blue sport utility vehicle that he left running. He was wearing a neoprene mask similar to what a skier would wear, Mr. Aaron said. Because of the mask, churchgoers did not immediately recognize him even though he had previously attended services there, the police said.
He was carrying two pistols, but it was not clear if he fired both, officials said. A third pistol and a rifle were found in his S.U.V.
A man who lives near the church said people had come to his home looking for help, so he headed over. He told the television station WKRN that by the time he arrived, the gunman had shot a woman in the back in the parking lot, and “then he turned around, and rolled her over and shot her in the face.”
“Then he went through the church, and he knocked one older man off a walker on the floor,” he added.
The person killed was Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tenn., the police said. The other victims were identified as Joey Spann, 60, the church’s minister; Peggy Spann, 65, his wife; William Jenkins, 83; Marlene Jenkins, 84; Linda Bush, 68; and Katherine Dickerson, 64. None of their injuries were life-threatening, the police said in a news release.
Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville said in a statement that the shooting was a “terrible tragedy.”
“My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones,” she said. “Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.”
In a welcome message on its website, the church described itself as “a friendly, Bible-based group of folks who love the Lord and are interested in spreading his word to those who are lost.”
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