According to officials, a church shooting in Antioch, Tennessee, has killed at least one person and injured several more. The fire department has called it a "mass casualty situation." According to Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron, a gunman entered the church and opened fire at attendees. Aaron said that the shooter entered from the parking lot of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ where he opened fire on a woman heading toward her vehicle.
The spokesman said that after shooting the woman, the gunman entered the church where seven individuals were shot. The identity of the shooter remains unknown at the moment but officials report that the suspect wore a "half mask." According to Aaron, one of the attendees at the church attempted to intervene and presumably block the gunman from further conducting attacks but the churchgoer was physically assaulted by the suspect with his weapon.
After allegedly assaulting the churchgoer, the suspect apparently shot himself but it isn't clear whether the wound was intentional, according to Aaron. The gunman was described as a male in his 20s and possibly from Rutherford County but his name has yet to be released, according to Aaron. As of this moment, the suspect is under police guard recovering from non-life-threatening wounds.
Officials report that seven people have been injured in addition to the gunman's injuries. The Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman said that those individuals were currently receiving medical assistance at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center whereas the the person who was assaulted by the gunman's weapon and another victim were admitted to Skyline Medical Center.
According to The Tennessean, a local newspaper, Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman John Howser said that two victims were in critical condition carrying gunshot injuries in their chest and upper torso.
So far, the motive for the shootings has not been specified as officials report no indication of previous ties between the suspect and the victims. The Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman said that he was "not aware" if there was any pre-existing relationship between the suspect and the churchgoers who had been injured in Sunday's incident.
Local authorities report that at least 50 people were present when the shooting took place. Shortly after reports of the shootout emerged, the Nashville Fire Department tweeted, "This is a mass casualty situation. All of the wounded have been transported to area hospitals. The majority are older adults."
Witnesses at the scene described the incident in grim terms. While referring to the woman who had been shot in the parking lot, one witnessed said "[The gunman] shot her like she was a damn dog in his backyard." One witness to the shooting said, "Our church is senior people. They didn't make it out."
Prior to the disturbing incident, little was known about the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ but the small church has a simple website where it describes 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."
Mayor of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Megan Barry, released an official statement after the shooting. "This is a terrible tragedy for our city. My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones. Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ," Barry said.
The mayor's statement went on to say, "My administration, especially the Metro Nashville Police Department, will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution, and promote non-violence."