Sources: Police almost let church shooter go

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COLLEGE PARK, Ga. - Deputies booked Floyd Palmer, 52, into the Fulton County Jail on Wednesday night, arrested and charged with fatally shooting a man during a prayer service Wednesday morning at World Changers Church International in College Park.

Channel 2 Action News was there as investigators took Palmer into custody at Lenox Square Wednesday afternoon.

Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri learned through her sources that Palmer was at the mall trying to turn himself in to police and investigators almost let him get away.

At Fulton County Police Headquarters, Viteri questioned Palmer about the shooting.

"What do you have to say about the charges you're facing?" she asked him, but received no answer.

Palmer walked with his head down. He said nothing as officers took him to a waiting patrol car.

Palmer is accused of killing Greg McDowell, 39, after firing several shots inside the chapel at World Changers Church.

"Do you have anything to say to the victim's family?" Viteri asked Palmer as investigators put him into the back of a patrol cruiser.

Police said they don't know why Palmer shot McDowell, a church member and volunteer who was leading prayer service when he was shot.

After the shooting, Palmer drove off, sparking a manhunt that lasted hours.

Channel 2 Action News had several crews at the scene when it ended Wednesday afternoon after investigators found Palmer at the Macy's in Lenox Square.

The view from News Chopper 2 showed Marshals and police lined up outside the store.

According to sources, Palmer went to the mall to turn himself in. One source said officers didn't initially know who he was but rushed to take him into custody once they realized.

"When he went into the SUV, he didn't really say anything. He was really calm just like I guess he was this morning," one mall witness said.

Channel 2's cameras caught a truck taking Palmer's Black Subaru from the mall to police headquarters.

The murder has stunned the congregation of World Changers. One man inside the chapel during the shooting said it came out of nowhere when he described it on a local radio show.

"Before you know it, shots rang out and we looked up and the brother who was up there, who was going to be the preacher, he was actually walking across pulpit praying. And then all of a sudden this guy just came out of nowhere," the man said on WAOK-AM radio Wednesday afternoon.

 

Creflo Dollar addresses congregation over shooting

 

Pastor Creflo Dollar addressed his congregation Wednesday night over the shooting that took place in his church.

Channel 2's Eric Philips was there as Dollar told the congregation that he took the loss personally, even joking at one point that he knew McDowell when he was skinny and that he performed the wedding ceremony for McDowell and his wife.

Dollar called it a tragedy but told his congregation he wanted to drill home three main points: God is good, heaven is real and to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord.

"While I was in my morning briefing I got a report that some shots took place over here in the chapel," Dollar told his followers Wednesday night.

Dollar was candid with his congregation as he explained how he learned of the shooting in the chapel Wednesday morning, and the personal sense of loss surrounding the death of McDowell.

"One of our very faithful, loving, kind servant , volunteer," Dollar said.

Dollar's entire message Wednesday centered on the violence that erupted in the chapel of World Changers Church hours earlier.

"That's not God's will for a husband to be taken away from his wife and family. That's not God's will," Dollar said.

Dollar said this night, it was important for him to feed his congregation the word of God and to encourage them.

Those that Philips spoke with said they felt encouraged.

"It was awesome, graceful message for a graceful man of God," said church member Tara Hannon.

"My condolences go to the family, but everything will be all right," Gary McClinton told Philips.

Dollar said the church will pray for and support the McDowell family any way it can, including financially.

He added that it's important for the church to pray for the alleged shooter and his family as well.

 

'He was a good man'


Friends and family have been gathering at the home of Greg McDowell in Union City since the shooting was reported Wednesday morning.

Channel 2's Erin Coleman was there as dozens of people stopped by, telling her McDowell was a devoted husband and father.

"He has boys that he's raising that he loved dearly, spends a tremendous amount of time with them he would be considered the model dad," the Rev. Ken Terry with World Changers church said, speaking on behalf of the McDowell family. "For this to happen is just devastating. We all are distraught by it. We're trying to show our comfort, our love, our support."

McDowell was a long-time member at World Changers and was leading prayer when he was gunned down there Wednesday morning.

"Greg is a great guy. We've known him for years, since he was almost a little kid," Terry said.

Neighbors who knew McDowell said he was always friendly and always smiled and waved.

"I feel terrible about it -- I mean, he was a good man," neighbor Anna Hall said.

"On the weekends they'd be out there with their kids, cut the grass, they'd wash their car in the driveway. Seemed like a normal, happy family," neighbor Marlene Guice said.

 

U.S. Marshals go to suspect's apartment


Neighbors were shocked when they found out Floyd Palmer was suspected in the shooting at World Changers Church.

Channel 2's Shae Rozzi was at the Reserve at Garden Lake Apartments in Riverdale when U.S. marshals went to Palmer's apartment looking for him.

They showed up just before 3 p.m., knocking on his door, but no one answered.

The marshals tipped off Rozzi that investigators had tracked Palmer to Lenox Square.

Residents couldn't believe it was their neighbor.

"That is interesting because he didn't pull off that type of person to me when I met him. Just a nice, cool neighbor, somebody to watch out for us, around us. I would never guess that," neighbor Hoover Sirmans said.

Rozzi showed another neighbor Palmer's picture, trying to get some details about the man.

"Do you know this man? Have you ever seen him before?" Rozzi asked Jarvis White.

"No I haven't," White answered.

"This is the man that authorities are looking for in the deadly shooting at World Changers Church," Rozzi said.

"He's my neighbor?" White said.

"That's what we're being told," Rozzi answered.

Marshals told Rozzi they were getting ready to tape off the area as an active crime scene to search Palmer's apartment Wednesday night.

While searching Palmer's apartment, police called in the bomb squad to look into an obstruction behind the front door and the complex was evacuated. The bomb squad determined there was no threat to neighbors or detectives and residents were allowed back into their apartments overnight.

As soon as Fulton County Police named Floyd Palmer as a suspect, Channel 2 Action News started digging into his background.

Wednesday afternoon Channel 2's Aaron Diamant learned Palmer is from Maryland.

In 2001, while living in Baltimore, Maryland, Circuit Court records show Palmer was arrested and charged with attempted murder, assault and two gun charges. 

In 2004, the more serious charges were dropped when Palmer pleaded guilty to second degree assault and carrying a handgun.

Channel 2 Action News is still working to get more details about the circumstances surrounding the Maryland case.

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A swift arrest at Macy's



Witnesses described a chaotic scene at Lenox Square as marshals took that suspect into custody.

When Channel 2's Mike Petchenik arrived at the scene, marked SUV's and U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force members were staged outside of the Macy's department store.

Witnesses who didn't want to be identified told Petchenik they saw Palmer walk into the Starbucks Wednesday afternoon and order a coffee drink.

A short time later, Macy's security showed up and escorted the 52-year-old out, into the custody of U.S. Marshals.

Just before 5 p.m. Petchenik spotted a wrecker removing Palmer's black Subaru SUV out of the parking lot.

He also saw the marshals leaving with sirens blaring, taking the shooting suspect away.

"Somebody spotted the vehicle in the parking lot because they had a lookout on the vehicle. Atlanta Police Department, Zone 2, put a bunch of people inside the mall and they checked with the security people there and they were able to observe him on camera, so they knew exactly where he was within the mall and they approached him and took him into custody," Keith Booker with the U.S. Marshals said.

Marshals said once Palmer knew the gig was up, he cooperated fully with them and didn't try to fight.

The mall was never locked down during the arrest.