Tennessee church shooting minister thought he was dying and prayed to God for forgiveness

A gunman killed one person and injured six at Burnette Chapel.Metro Nashville PD

The minister of the Tenessee where a gunman opened fire on Sunday has described how he thought he was going to die, and prayed for God's forgiveness for 'things I didn't do right'.

Pastor Joey Spann was speaking yesterday in the aftermath of the shooting allegedly carried out by the suspect Emanuel Samson at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch.

Melanie Crow Smith, a 39-year-old married mother of two, was killed during the attack and Samson – a bodybuilder born in Sudan – was arrested at the scene. Melanie's funeral takes place today.

Samson allegedly opened fire at the church on Sunday as the service was ending, having been seen in the car park wearing a neoprene mask.

Spann told USA Today how he lay bleeding, collapsed on the floor of the church and watched the masked man who had just shot him in the chest and hand walk further into the church.

'The shots kept going,' he said. 'I thought he was going to kill everybody.'

Spann then described in a telephone interview how he prayed, not for survival or for the church members who were applying pressure to his wounds to be successful in their mission to save him, but for forgiveness.

'God, I'm sorry for things I didn't do right,' Spann said from his hospital room.

In a separate, 30 minute news conference on Monday night at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he is recovering after losing his index finger, Spann recounted how he had been shaking hands with congregants at the back of the church when the mayhem broke out.

'We hear pop, pop, pop,' the 66-year-old minister said during the news conference that the Washington Post described as 'gripping'.

'He shot me in the chest and shot again and shot again. I heard the bullet go by my head. Another one tore my hand up. I just continued to cross the vestibule and fell down on the other side of it.'

He continued: 'My wife called my name out. She said, "Are you OK?" I said, "He's killed me. I'm dying." And I told her, "I'm sorry."'

Four guns believed to be Samson's were recovered at the scene after the incident: two at the church and two from his car, police said.

Samson is being charged with one count of murder, with additional charges pending.

His rampage was brought to an end when a church usher, Robert Engle, tackled him and despite being struck on the head by Samson's pistol forced him to shoot himself in the leg.

Engle, who is being hailed as a hero, then ran to his car, where he had a pistol, and held Samson at gunpoint until police arrived.

'Some of the people he was close to here have talked to him and he said it was just an instinct – just a reaction. Just something he did out of impulse.. which is not surprising. It's just kind of who he is,' a former employer told KCRA.