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Georgia megachurch slaying suspect served time in 2001 Md. mosque shooting

Fulton County Police Dept. Via AP

Floyd Palmer is accused in the fatal shooting of a church volunteer.

A man accused of killing a volunteer leading a prayer service at a Georgia megachurch was charged more than a decade ago with shooting a co-worker at a mosque in Maryland, according to police documents.

Floyd Palmer was acting as security at a Baltimore mosque in June 2001 when he shot another man working with him, wounding him in the back, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday. Palmer tried to fire the gun again, but it jammed. When other people ran over to him, he turned the gun on them, but it again wouldn't fire, according to the documents.


 

The report did not say why Palmer shot the man in the back.

But Christine Singleterry, Palmer’s former mother-in-law, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Palmer shot the man following an argument. “He got him to go outside and then shot him in the parking lot,” she was quoted as saying. She told the newspaper Palmer served about 18 months in a mental facility and was released.

It's not clear when he made his way  to Atlanta. He had been working as a maintenance facilities employee at World Changers Church International near College Park, but quit in August for "personal reasons," Fulton County Police Cpl. Kay Lester said. 

On Wednesday, authorities said Palmer, 51, calmly walked into a chapel as Greg McDowell, 39, was leading a morning prayer service for a group of about 25 people. 

Only McDowell was shot. Authorities are trying to figure out if the two men knew each other. 

Palmer casually walked out of the chapel and police arrested him several hours later when they spotted his station wagon at a mall in suburban Atlanta. Police said they have not found the gun.

John Bazemore / AP

A Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy stands guard outside the World Changers International church after a fatal shooting inside on Wednesday.

Police searched Palmer’s apartment in Riverdale in Clayton County on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the Journal-Constitution reported.  They removed several items from the apartment, but it was not immediately clear what they took out, the newspaper said.

Visibly distraught members of McDowell's family showed up at the Fulton County jail for Palmer's first court hearing Thursday, but he waived his appearance.

Palmer faces charges of homicide murder, felony murder, aggravated assault murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. His next hearing is Nov. 8. 

Ken Terry, a church pastor 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 said. "To have this happen is just devastating." 

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Renee Sunshine Lewis of the Fulton County victim assistance program called McDowell "a very loving person, extremely loving" and said "the family is just asking for prayers at this time." 

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. 

The violence upset members and neighbors of the church, which is one of the largest in the United States, claiming 30,000 members at the main campus and a ministry of satellite churches across the country. 

World Changers is led by the Rev. Creflo Dollar, who was not there at the time of the shooting. 

Along with Bishop Eddie Long, Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta who have built successful ministries on the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. 

Dollar didn't immediately respond to media requests for comment, but he preached Wednesday evening at a Bible study in the campus's larger World Dome sanctuary. He repeated the importance of having faith in God even when bad things happen and rejecting fear and doubt. 

"We pray for this family," he said, referring to McDowell. "We pray for both families and then we pray for every family that's in here tonight."

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