Usher hailed as ‘hero’ after stopping church shooter

Investigators at the scene of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. (Photo: City of Nashville)

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Investigators at the scene of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. (Photo: City of Nashville)

Friends know Robert Engle by his middle name, Caleb.

He’s tall, kind and considerate of others.

Engle, 22, was an usher Sunday at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, where he has attended since he was a child, when a masked gunman walked in and started firing indiscriminately at the 42 parishioners.

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"I've been going to this church my whole life,” Engle said. “I would have never, ever thought something like this would have happened."

Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, fatally shot a woman in the parking lot before entering the church where he shot six more people. Engle was pistol-whipped by Samson while trying to stop the gunman as he entered the church. Engle, who has a permit to carry, went to the parking lot and retrieved his gun. He ran back into church where he tackled and held Samson at gunpoint until police arrived.

“I ask everyone to pray for the victims, family members of the victims, our church community. Please pray for healing,” Engle said in a statement. “Also, please pray for the shooter, the shooter’s family and friends. They are hurting as well.”

The six people injured suffered life-threatening injuries. Samson also shot himself, although it was unclear whether it was on purpose or accident. He was treated for the gunshot wound to his chest and released into police custody. He was charged with murder.

Engle was treated at the hospital and released Sunday night. Law enforcement officials called him “an extraordinarily brave individual.”

"He's the hero," Metro Nashville police Chief Steve Anderson said during a news conference. "He's the person who stopped this madness."

But Engle eschews being called a hero.

“I do not want to be labeled a hero,” Engle said in a statement. “The real heroes are the police, first responders, medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.”

Engle’s grandmother said she’s proud of him.

"He's just someone who care about a lot of people," Rheta Engle told the Tennessean. "He has all their feeling at heart."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.