Georgia megachurch shooting suspect in custody
Thursday, October 25, 2012
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — A volunteer leading a prayer service at a Georgia megachurch was shot and killed Wednesday morning, and a former church employee was taken into custody hours later.
The shots were fired just before 10 a.m. inside a chapel on the campus of World Changers Church International, which says it has 30,000 followers in College Park, a suburb south of Atlanta.
The church’s well-known founder and leader, the Rev. Creflo Dollar, was not at the church at the time of the shooting, Fulton County Police Cpl. Kay Lester said.
Authorities identified the suspect as Floyd Palmer, a former facilities maintenance employee at the church in his early 50s. Lester said Palmer had resigned from his job at the church in August for “personal reasons.”
Palmer was taken into custody a few hours later, Deputy U.S. Marshal Eric Heinze said. No other details were immediately available.
About 20 to 25 people were gathered in the chapel Wednesday morning, when authorities say the gunman walked in and began shooting. No other people were wounded and the gunman fled in a black Subaru station wagon with tinted windows.
The victim was identified as Gregory McDowell, a 39-year-old church volunteer who was leading a prayer at the time. Investigators were working to determine if Palmer and McDowell knew each other.
“We do not know if the victim was targeted,” Lester said. “We are looking into that as he was the only person that was shot.”
Although the campus has security officers and surveillance cameras, Lester said the suspect was known to some of those at Wednesday’s morning service, so his presence wouldn’t have been unusual.
A few schools in the surrounding neighborhood were locked down temporarily immediately after the shooting. Afternoon services at the church were canceled, Lester said.
The 50-year-old Dollar is one of the most well-known African-American preachers based around Atlanta, with a ministry of satellite churches across the U.S.
On the church grounds, yellow tape surrounded an older brick building that houses the chapel, which is about 50 yards away from the campus’s massive World Dome. Police were not letting people onto the campus and were gradually letting members of the ministry out.
A security guard at the administrative office declined to comment as did several church employees.