Police in Georgia say they are investigating whether the suspect in a deadly shooting at an Atlanta-area megachurch is the same man convicted of chasing down a man and shooting him outside a Northwest Baltimore mosque in 2001.
Floyd Lester Palmer, 51, is listed with the same name and birth date in court records from both incidents, which bear striking parallels. Palmer pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in the Maryland shooting — at a mosque where he was a security guard — and was later found not criminally responsible. He spent 18 months in a state psychiatric hospital, according to city prosecutors.
"He walked in calmly, opened fire, and left as calmly," said Fulton County police Cpl. Kay Lester. Palmer faces murder and other charges, according to online jail records, and is being represented by the Fulton County public defender. No one at the office could be reached for comment Thursday.
In the 2001 incident, a Floyd Lester Palmer was working security for a morning women's meeting at Muhammad Mosque Number Six in the 3300 block of Garrison Blvd. with three other people, according to a police report,
He came up behind Reuben Jerry Ash, who was walking to his car across the street in a Walgreens parking lot, and shot him in the lower back, the report says.
He also tried to shoot at two witnesses, but his gun jammed, according to the report, and he fled down an alley.
No motive for the shooting was listed, but Matthew Fraling, a former Baltimore prosecutor who handled the case, said Palmer believed Ash was having an affair with his wife. Fraling said that in 2001, Palmer had been relieved of some of his duties at the mosque, such as opening up in the morning.
Palmer, the Atlanta suspect, was a former maintenance employee at the church who resigned in August, Lester said.
Gayle Jordan-Randolph, deputy secretary of behavioral health at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said patients at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, where the mosque shooter was held, are kept under maximum security until their condition begins to improve.
That Palmer was released from the facility in June 2006 and remained on conditional release until last June, according to Jordan-Randolph. The conditions of his release included regular drug screenings, agreeing not to drink alcohol or use drugs and not own firearms. Fraling said prosecutors still believed he was dangerous and objected to the release.
But Jordan-Randolph said records showed that Palmer had complied with the conditions of his release. The attorney who represented Palmer in the case could not be reached for comment.
Reporter Justin Fenton and the Associated Press contributed to this article.