A Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy stands guard outside the World Changers Church International in College Park after a fatal shooting inside Wednesday.
BALTIMORE — A former megachurch maintenance man accused of killing a volunteer leading a prayer service was charged more than a decade ago with a shooting 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.
Palmer faced attempted murder, assault and handgun charges, and he was committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2004 after pleading not criminally responsible to lesser charges. Court records show he was released the next year.
It’s not clear when he made his way south to Atlanta. He had been working at World Changers Church International, 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.
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 murder and firearms charges. His next hearing is Nov. 8.
The Fulton County public defender is representing Palmer, but a representative said no one was immediately available to comment on the case.
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.”
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 Changes 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 requests for comment from The Associated Press, 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.”