Robert Caleb Engle, 22, is the heroic usher and legal gun carrier who stopped the fatal shooting at Burnette Chapel Church in Antioch, Tennessee today. He’s being hailed as a hero who risked his own life to stop the gunman, now identified as Emanuel Samson. While they struggled, Samson was shot in the chest and prevented from hurting more people. Engle later said in a statement that he hoped somehow, through this, people would come to know Christ. He also asked for people to pray for the victims, their families, and for the shooter and the shooter’s family and friends.
Here’s what you need to know about Engle and what he did to stop the shooting.
1. When Robert Caleb Engle Confronted the Gunman, He Was Pistol-Whipped
When Robert Engle saw the shooting, he ran up to the gunman to try to stop him, police said. “There was a significant struggle between the two,” said Don Aaron, police spokesman. Samson pistol-whipped Engle during the struggle. Engle was bleeding from his head, but he didn’t let the injury stop him.
Nashville police chief Steve Anderson said Engle was a hero.
“He’s the hero here, he’s the person who stopped this madness in its tracks.”
Engle suffered severe injuries from the confrontation, but is now stable.
2. Engle Got His Gun, Returned, and Held the Shooter at Gunpoint
Engle, who has a legal permit to carry his gun, ran outside to his car to get his gun after he was pistol-whipped, according to early police reports. The gunman had accidentally shot himself in the chest during their initial struggle.
When he went back into the church, Engle held the shooter at gunpoint while he was bleeding from his head, waiting for the police.
“After the gunman suffered the self inflicted wound, the church usher … ran to his car, got his gun, came back in, and made sure the gunman didn’t make any more movements until the police officers arrived,” Aaron told reporters.
Engle was able to talk to the police and walk into the ambulance on his own. He’s now in the hospital, recovering.
3. Police Officials Called Engle an ‘Exceptionally Brave Individual’ and a Hero
Police officials had nothing but praise for Engle. Don Aaron, a police spokesman, called him an “exceptionally brave individual.”
Engle, a church usher, was hospitalized with a head injury from the confrontation, but the injury is not life threatening, according to police.
Engle’s grandmother, Rheta Engle, said her grandson just really cares for people, The Tennessean reported.
That’s like him. He’s just someone who cares about a lot of people. He has all their feelings at heart… It would make any parent, grandparent very, very proud of him.”
Robert Langford, a friend of Engle’s, said his friend goes by his middle name, Caleb. He described Engle to The Tennessean as a gentle giant.
He’s such a great guy… Just one of the kindest human beings you’ll ever meet.”
4. Engle Said in a Statement After the Shooting: ‘I Pray That Through All of This … People Will Come to Know Christ’
After the shooting, Engle released the following statement:
He wrote, in part:
I’ve been going to this church my whole life, since I was a small child. I would have never, ever thought something like this would have happened.
I ask everyone to pray for the victims, family members of the victims, our church community. Please pray for healing. Also, please pray for the shooter, the shooter’s family and friends. They are hurting as well.
I pray that through all of this that people will come to know Christ and I ask our nation to reflect on Romans 8:31, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?'”
He also stated, when asked about being called a hero:
I do not want to be labeled a hero. The real heroes are the police, first responders, and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected. My hope is for privacy for all involved.”
On Engle’s Facebook, he posts about his family and his faith, along with his support for the Second Amendment. One photo that he shared shows a mountain in the background and simply reads: “My future is bright, because I have God in my life.”
His account is full of encouraging public posts, including a message encouraging friends to just let the past go because “it has nothing new to say.”
Another encouraging meme that he shared reads, “When we’re down, the Devil whispers his lies into our minds: You can’t do this. No one appreciates you. Why not call it quits? We need to recognize all discouraging thoughts as coming from him — and reject them.”
In a post from September 15, Engle shared a meme that explains his support for the Second Amendment. The points on the meme include: “When law-abiding citizens conceal & carry — criminals are confused. When law-abiding citizens reveal & chamber — criminals flee. When law-abiding citizens practice using their weapon — all people are safer.”
5. About 42 People Were in the Church When the Shooting Started
The shooter had opened fire just as Burnette Chapel was letting out on Sunday morning. He had two guns and it’s possible more people would have been injured if it hadn’t been for Engle’s intervention.
Emergency responders were called to the church at 11:17 a.m., according to Metro Nashville Fire Department dispatch audio. The victims included three women and three men. One woman who was shot in the parking lot, 39-year-old Melanie Smith of Smyrna, died.
The shooter was wearing a neoprene sky type mask, Aaron said. The gunman entered the rear of the church, Aaron said, and opened fire again, shooting “indiscriminately.”
Police said they believed about 42 people were in the church when the shooting began. All of the victims were adults. Police weren’t aware of the motive or any relationship between the shooter and the congregation. The latest reports from police reveal that the shooter had attended the church about one to two years ago.
A witness said the shooter was silent and shot continuously while moving to the front of the church. “I’ve never seen him before,” she told reporters.
Read more about the shooting in Heavy’s story below: