The man suspected of calmly walking into a service at an Atlanta-area megachurch and gunning down a church volunteer leading a prayer was committed eight years ago to a psychiatric hospital after a violent incident in Maryland, court records show.
Police in Georgia said former church worker Floyd Palmer, 51, entered a chapel at World Changers Church International just before 10 a.m. Wednesday and opened fire, killing church volunteer Greg McDowell, 39.
"He walked in calmly, opened fire, and left as calmly," Fulton County Police Cpl. Kay Lester said.
Palmer was a former facilities maintenance employee at the church who resigned in August for "personal reasons," Lester said.
The church's well-known founder and leader, the Rev. Creflo Dollar, was not there at the time.
Palmer was taken into custody without incident a few hours later at a Macy's at a mall in Atlanta's upscale Buckhead neighborhood, Lester said. Police spotted his black Subaru station wagon with tinted windows in the parking lot of Lenox Square. They didn't recover a weapon.
He faces murder and other charges, according to online jail records.
Court records show a man named Floyd Lester Palmer, born on the same day in 1960, was charged in Baltimore in 2001 with attempted murder, assault and handgun charges. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2004 after pleading not criminally responsible to lesser charges. The records show he was released the next year subject to conditions that were to remain in effect for five years.
Palmer was working as security for a morning women’s meeting at a mosque in the 3300 block of Garrison Boulevard with three other people in the earlier incident, according to a police report.
The victim in the shooting, identified by police as Reuben Jerry Ash, was walking to his car across the street in a Walgreen’s parking lot when Palmer came up behind him and shot him in the lower back, the report shows. He also tried to shoot at two witnesses, but his gun jammed, according to the report, and he fled down an alley.
The witnesses identified Palmer as the shooter and said he was a member of the mosque, the report shows.
The motive in the shooting was not listed.
The court filings include motions by the defense for a dangerousness evaluation, which was later withdrawn.
Palmer's attorney in the case, Kenneth Ravenell, was out of the country on Wednesday, his staff said.
In the Georgia shooting, about 20 to 25 people were gathered in the chapel when the shooting happened. No other people were wounded and the gunman fled.
Investigators were working to determine if Palmer and McDowell knew each other.
"We do not know if the victim was targeted," Lester said. "We are looking into that as he was the only person that was shot."
Ken Terry, a pastor at the church who is acting as a spokesman for McDowell's family, said the church family was distraught and trying to comfort McDowell's family.
"He would be considered a model dad," Terry told reporters. "To have this happen is just devastating."
Although the campus has security officers and surveillance cameras, Lester said the suspect was known to some at the service, so his presence wouldn't have been unusual.