A Nashville pastor is hailed as a hero by his congregation after attacking a man wielding a gun in the air and pointing it at people during a church service on Sunday, police said.
No shots were fired and no one was injured in the incident at the Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal Church at 930 West Trinity Lane, the Metro Nashville Police Department reported.
Police identified the man as 26-year-old Dezire Baganda. MNPD spokeswoman Brooke Reese said on Monday that Baganda faced 57 counts of aggravated assault.
On Monday, he remained jailed in Davidson County on $ 375,000 bail. He is due before a judge on Wednesday, according to court records. The amount of his deposit was to increase.
“God was taking care of me and everyone else in the building,” Noe, who sat in the front row of the shrine and watched the incident unfold, told Tennessean Nzojibugami on Monday.
Noe, a choir and church member, identified the pastor as Ezekiel Ndikumana.
“I am very happy to be the first to arrive before he could shoot and injure one of my members because they are my family,” Ndikumana said in a statement through a translator.
He also said he was even happier after the gun was out of the suspect’s hand.
How the incident unfolded
Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron said the incident began as the pastor prayed with several members in front of the altar inside the church, located about seven miles north of downtown Nashville.
The suspect was seated in a row to the pastor’s right, Aaron said.
The pastor then made an altar call and came down from the pulpit where he was preaching, as shown in an arrest affidavit. The suspect then got up and walked to the pulpit.
Once on stage, where the pulpit was, the affidavit continues, the suspect drew a handgun from his belt and began to wave it at the whole congregation “causing unrest”.
At one point, Aaron said, the pastor managed to sneak behind the suspect.
“After moving a chair out of his way, he rushed over and tackled the suspect, bringing him to the ground,” Aaron said.
Others joined in to help him disarm him, he said, and the group held him back until the officers arrived.
According to an arrest affidavit, the suspect’s action put the lives of the congregation in danger and made them fear for their lives.
He goes on to say that upon his arrest, Baganda told the police that he was Jesus and that “all churches and schools must be brought down.”
While not a member of the church, the pastor told police that Baganda had been there before.
A motive for the attack remained under investigation on Monday.
“When David fought Goliath”
Noe, a 26-year-old choir member for the church, said the congregation of 85 had 68 in attendance on Sunday.
One of them, Ndikumana, who has led the church since 2009 after immigrating to the United States in 2007 from Burundi, played a heroic role with God’s help, he said.
“It happened very quickly,” recalls Noe.
Before the suspect pulled out the gun, Noe said he sang with his eyes closed, “Help me oh God, King of Kings.”
“I came to open my eyes when I heard him (the suspect) say, ‘Do you think I’m playing with you?'”
“He crept right behind me as soon as he got up and latched on to the left pretending to come out, then quickly got on top of him,” Noe recalls. “It was very amazing.”
Noe also said that before the incident started, he prayed to God to fill him with the Holy Spirit and give the church strength, like when David fought Goliath in the Bible.
“Forty minutes after my prayer it happened and God used the pastor to attack him – a man who could have killed a lot of people,” Noe said. “We are blessed.”
This is a developing story.