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Megachurch shooting suspect was committed in Md.

By AP | Last updated: Nov 5, 2012 - 12:32:37 PM

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Fulton County Police public information officer Kay Lester holds up the picture of Floyd Palmer, the suspect being sought in a fatal shooting at World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga. Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. A church volunteer leading prayer was shot and killed inside the chapel of the megachurch. Photo: AP/Wide World photo
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. ( - A man suspected in the fatal shooting at a Georgia megachurch was once committed to a mental health facility in Maryland after facing various criminal charges including attempted murder, according to court records.

Police in Georgia said Floyd Palmer, 51, walked into a chapel at World Changers Church International just before a 10 a.m. service and opened fire, killing church volunteer Greg McDowell, 39, Oct. 24 while he was leading a prayer.

“He walked in calmly, opened fire, and left as calmly,” Fulton County Police Cpl. Kay Lester said.

Mr. Palmer was a former facilities maintenance employee at the church who resigned in August for “personal reasons,” Lester said. He previously lived in Maryland.

The church’s well-known founder and leader, the Rev. Creflo Dollar, was not there at the time.

Mr. Palmer was taken into custody without incident a few hours later at an upscale mall in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, Lester said. Police spotted his car in the parking lot of Lenox Square. They didn’t recover a weapon.

He was being charged with homicide and possession of firearms in commission of a homicide, with additional charges pending.

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.

The court filings include motions by the defense for a dangerousness evaluation, which was later withdrawn.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department did not have arrest records in the case, which is not unusual in cases where someone has been committed. Mr. Palmer’s attorney in the case, Kenneth Ravenell, was out of the country Oct. 24, his staff said.

About 20 to 25 people were gathered in the chapel when the shooting happened. No other people were wounded and the gunman fled in a black Subaru station wagon with tinted windows that was later spotted by police at a mall in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.

Investigators were working to determine if Mr. Palmer and Mr. McDowell knew each other.

Ken Terry, a pastor at the church who is acting as a spokesman for Mr. McDowell’s family, said the church family was distraught and trying to comfort Mr. McDowell’s family.

Although the campus has security officers and surveillance cameras, Mr. 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.

Along with Bishop Eddie Long, Mr. Dollar is one of the most prominent Black 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.

Mr. Dollar didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press, but he preached Oct. 24 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 Mr. McDowell. “We pray for both families and then we pray for every family that’s in here tonight.” (AP)