Minister Joey Spann watched Friday as 27-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson was convicted of first-degree murder for killing one person and wounding seven others when he sprayed Spann's church and its congregants with bullets in 2017.

It was hard for Spann to recognize in Samson the same young man who taught Vacation Bible School at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville just years before, and who would sit up front with his cousins to hear Spann preach on Sundays.

Spann said he had thought the world of Samson in those days. And Samson praised everyone from the church on the witness stand, calling them receptive, kind, warm and compassionate.

Recollections of Samson as a young, eager fellow churchgoer were sprinkled throughout testimony by Spann and his multicultural congregation, who wrestled with grief and anger and struggled to forgive as they relived the shooting rampage in court this week. The impact was evident watching Spann gesture during trial testimony. One of his fingers is gone because of the shooting.


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