Floyd Palmer

Fulton County Police PIO Kay Lester holds up the picture of suspect, Floyd Palmer, who was arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of Greg McDowell at World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT / October 26, 2012)

Police investigating a fatal shooting at a megachurch near Atlanta confirmed that their suspect is the man who pleaded guilty in a shooting at a Northwest Baltimore mosque in 2001.

Floyd Lester Palmer, 51, entered a chapel at World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., on Wednesday and shot Greg McDowell, 39, according to Fulton County police.

Palmer waived two chances to go before a judge, the Fulton County sheriff's department said, and will have his first hearing next month. Palmer is being represented by the county public defender's office, which could not be reached for comment.

In the Baltimore incident, Reuben Jerry Ash, who now goes by the name of Reuben Muhammad, was shot from behind by Palmer while they were providing security for a morning women's meeting at the mosque in the 3300 block of Garrison Blvd.

Muhammad said they had been close and that Palmer taught him about the Muslim faith. But before the shooting, he said, Palmer had stopped coming to the mosque. The day of the shooting, Palmer turned up at the mosque unexpectedly.

"I spoke to him, but he never said anything back. He was just smiling," Muhammad said.

When Muhammad walked across the street to retrieve something from his car, Palmer shot at him.

"I heard a gunshot and I felt the bullet go into my back," Muhammad said. "I couldn't feel my legs, and then I felt my legs melt into the ground.

"That's when I saw Floyd with the gun, and it shocked the hell out of me that it was him."

Muhammad was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center and spent a month in the hospital. Damage to his spine kept him in a wheelchair for a year and half. He eventually regained the ability to walk but said his right leg is mostly useless and that he experiences chronic pain.

Palmer was charged with attempted murder, assault and weapons offenses. He pleaded guilty to assault in 2004, then was found not criminally responsible and committed to a state psychiatric hospital.

He was released in 2006, over the objections of prosecutors, and served five years of conditional release. State health officials said Palmer had fully complied with the terms of his release.

iduncan@baltsun.com