NASHVILLE, Tenn. – 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 Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal Church, the Metro Nashville Police Department reported.
Police identified the gunman as 26-year-old Dezire Baganda. Records show he faces 15 counts of the felony of aggravated assault. More charges are expected to arrive earlier this week, the MNPD said.
Baganda remained jailed in Davidson County on Monday on $ 375,000 bail. He is due before a judge on Wednesday, according to court records.
“God was taking care of me and everyone else in the building,” Nzojibugami Noe, sitting in the front row of the shrine and watching the incident unfold, said Monday at Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Noe, a choir and church member, identified the pastor as Ezekiel Ndikumana.
How the incident unfolded
Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron said the pastor was praying with several members at the altar as the suspect sat to his right.
According to an arrest affidavit, the pastor then made an altar call and came down from the pulpit where he was preaching. The suspect stood up and began to walk towards the pulpit.
Once on the scene, 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 trouble”.
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 added, and the group held him down until the officers arrived.
Noe, a 26-year-old choir member for the church, said the congregation of 85 had 68 in attendance on Sunday.
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, Noe said.
“It happened very quickly,” recalls Noe. “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.… It was very amazing.”
Although Baganda was not a member of the church, the pastor told police that Baganda had already been there.
A motive for the attack remained under investigation on Monday.
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“All churches and schools”
According to an arrest affidavit, the suspect’s action put the lives of the entire 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.”
Follow Rachel Wegner on Twitter @rachelannwegner.