A man calmly walked into a prayer service Wednesday morning at the College Park megachurch founded by televangelist Creflo Dollar and opened fire as 20 to 25 people watched in horror, police said.
Greg McDowell, 39, fell mortally wounded and Floyd Palmer, 52, a former church employee “left just as calmly”as he entered World Changers Church International, said Fulton County police spokeswoman Cpl. Kay Lester said.
Authorities arrested Palmer at Macy’s department store at Lenox Square in Buckhead just before 4 p.m. after his car was spotted at the mall, Lester said.
McDowell, of Union City, was leading the prayer service when he was shot around 10:30 a.m. and later died. Lester said it was not yet clear whether McDowell was targeted by the shooter or shot randomly. McDowell was a member of the church’s production crew and a facilities maintenance manager at the church at 2500 Burdett Road, police said.Lester said Palmer, a former employee had resigned in August for personal reasons,
Dollar was not at the church at the time of the shooting, Lester said.
Lester said Palmer left the scene in a black Subaru station wagon. She said someone spotted Palmer’s car at the mall around 3 p.m. Atlanta police then reviewed mall surveillance video and spotted Palmer on camera. Officials from APD and the U.S. Marshall’s Service took Palmer into custody without incident, Lester said.
Karen Webb, who had taken her mother to the church for Bible study, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was told the victim was shot six times. “I brought my mother up here to go to church — every Wednesday she attends Bible study. As soon as we get here I’m told someone has been shot,” Webb said. “He was one of the praise leaders.”
Dollar, a popular televangelist, started World Changers Ministries in 1986 with eight members, holding services in the cafeteria of a local elementary school, according to the church’s website. Its campus now occupies 81 acres, with services held in the 8,500-seat World Dome. Dollar is a regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Dollar could not be reached for comment. Ken Terry, a pastor at the church and the family’s spokesman called McDowell a “tremendous leader, role model and father.” He called the shooting an unfortunate tragedy perpetrated by a volunteer who had been with the church for 10 years. He said Greg McDowell had been a long time member of the church also. “He was faithful for a number of years. We have known him for years. Since he was a little kid.” Terry spoke of McDowell’s two sons. “He spent a tremendous amount of time with them. He was the model dad.” Neighbors told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that McDowell’s wife’s name is Rosetta and the couple have two toddlers.
Throughout the afternoon, mourners streamed into McDowell’s home, many carrying food. Marlene Guice said she saw the victim Wednesday morning while she was in her yard and he was on the way to church. “I waved at him like I always do.” Guice, who has lived two doors from McDowell for two years, said she met him while walking her dogs in the neighborhood. “He was a very good person. They stayed to themselves, but were very nice. The nicest people you could ever meet.”
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Staff writer Ernie Suggs contributed to this article.