A potential massacre at Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal in Nashville, Tennessee, was averted Sunday when the congregation’s pastor tackled a man who pointed a gun at the congregation from the pulpit while they were in prayer.
“He wanted to kill, that’s what first came to my mind,” Pastor Ezekiel Ndikumana told WKRN about the attack through his interpreter, Nzojibugami Noe.
A 55-second surveillance video shows the tense moments when the gunman police later identified as Dezire Baganda, 26, is tackled by the quick-thinking pastor before he could do any damage in the 10 a.m. service.
The video shows Baganda, who was sitting in the front pew of the church next to the musicians, getting up and pulling a gun from his person with his right hand while holding what appears to be a Bible in his left hand.
He then quickly moved to the pulpit, where he began to wave and point the gun at the congregation.
Police say Baganda told worshipers to get up as he waved the gun at them until Pastor Ndikumana was shown to slip from under his watch. The pastor then used the opportunity to go around the podium to tackle Baganda from behind.
The gunman was held at the church until police arrived.
The Nashville Tennessean reports that Baganda faces 57 counts of aggravated assault. He is jailed in Davidson County on a $375,000 bond.
“He was standing in the front of almost everybody. No one was behind him yet, so he could have done anything,” Noe told WKRN.
Pastor Ndikumana strongly believes God used him to save his church.
“I would say that God used me because I felt like I was going to use the back door as an example as going on by trying to go behind him. And then I felt the feeling that I would go and grab him… and that’s what happened,” he said.
And his congregants agreed.
“We were so shocked seeing him come in the front and pull out a gun, the whole church was calm,” church member Akimana Charite told News Channel 5. “[W]e thank God if we started panicking, he may have started shooting around. But we all stayed calm.”
“That’s when one of the pastors, I would say it’s God using him, he went around on both sides,” Charite said. “[T]he guy with the gun was not paying attention to him. So he went around. And that’s when… he jumped on top of him and put him on the ground.”
The pastor told WKRN that while Baganda was not a church member, he had visited before. Baganda was asked not to come back to the church last February because he kept interrupting the sermons. He was never, however, known to be violent.
An affidavit cited by WKRN said Baganda claimed to be Jesus as he was being arrested and declared that there should be mass shootings at all schools and churches. God had other plans, Ndikumana said.
“God wanted to show that he’s a powerful God,” Ndikumana told WRKN. “One main thing I said, we had faith.”