Accused Georgia gunman charged in ’01 mosque shooting

BALTIMORE (AP) — A former megachurch maintenance man accused of killing a volunteer leading a prayer service in a Georgia chapel was charged more than a decade ago with a shooting at a mosque in Maryland, according to police documents.

Floyd Palmer was part of a security detail at a Baltimore mosque in June 2001 when he shot another man working with him, wounding him in the back, according to a police report obtained by the Associated Press on Thursday. Palmer tried to fire again, but the gun jammed. When other people ran over to him, he turned the gun on them, but it wouldn’t fire, according to the documents.

During a pretrial psychological evaluation, Palmer said the shooting occurred in part because he believed NFL player Ray Lewis and members of his own family were out to get him.

Palmer was committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2004 after pleading not criminally responsible to the mosque shooting. Despite objections from prosecutors, a judge released him in 2006 on the condition he abide by a number of restrictions for five years.

It’s not clear when he made his way south. He had been working at World Changers Church International in an Atlanta suburb, but quit in August for “personal reasons,” Fulton County Police Cpl. Kay Lester said.

On Wednesday, authorities said Palmer, 51, walked into a chapel as Greg McDowell, 39, led a morning prayer service for a group of about 25 people.

He fired several shots, according to a witness, but only McDowell was hit. Authorities were trying to figure out if the two men knew each other.

Palmer calmly left the chapel and police arrested him several hours later when they spotted his station wagon at a mall in suburban Atlanta. Police said they have not found the gun.

In Baltimore, officials were taking a closer look at the 2001 shooting. According to the pretrial psychological evaluation, Palmer said the shooting occurred because one of his cousins, Richard Lollar, was killed in Atlanta shortly after the 2000 Super Bowl.

Lewis, a Baltimore Ravens linebacker, was charged in the stabbing death of Lollar and another man, but he was exonerated. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice. Two other defendants were acquitted in the case.

Palmer said he shot Reuben Jerry Ash outside the mosque because he believed Ash was being paid by Lewis to “get rid of him,” according to the psychological evaluation. The shooting left Ash paralyzed.

A judge released Palmer from the psychiatric hospital on the condition he live with his mother, not own or possess a weapon and continue treatment for the next five years. The judge noted Palmer’s lack of a history of mental illness, his two-decade employment with the Social Security Administration and his full remission from mental illness.

The state attorney general’s office objected, saying Palmer did not understand that he remained mentally ill. That “indicates a high likelihood that he will not be compliant,” their response stated, adding there “was no real evidence Mr. Palmer would not be a danger to himself or others if released with or without conditions.”

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