A man arrested Wednesday and charged with the fatal shooting of a prayer leader at World Changers Church International had a history of violence that had previously led to a stay at a Baltimore mental hospital.
Floyd Palmer, 52, pleaded guilty to shooting a Baltimore man a little more than a decade ago and was committed to a mental health facility there. Palmer is now accused of murder after allegedly walking into a prayer service at the College Park mega-church founded by the Rev. Creflo Dollar and opening fire as 20 to 25 people watched in horror.
Greg McDowell, a 39-year-old father of two young children, fell mortally wounded as Palmer, a former church employee, “left just as calmly” as he entered, Fulton County police spokeswoman Cpl. Kay Lester said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The suspect left in a black Subaru station wagon, only to be arrested without incident at Lenox Square in Buckhead just before 4 p.m.
Palmer, who resigned from the church in August for personal reasons, had been charged previously with attempted murder. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to assault charges and was deemed “not criminally responsible” and committed, according to Maryland court records. Other records indicate that shooting occurred in 2001.
Christine Singleterry, Palmer’s former mother-in-law, said Palmer shot a man following an argument at a Baltimore mosque. “He got him to go outside and then shot him in the parking lot,” said Singleterry. She said he served about 18 months in the mental facility and was released. She said the victim remains paralyzed.
Singleterry said her daughter, who is now deceased, divorced Palmer in the 1990s because he was abusive. They had two daughters who are now grown.
“He was mixed up and argumentative,” she told the newspaper. Family members said he moved to Atlanta several years ago.
Mack Simpson, who is married to Palmer’s sister, was shocked to hear the news. “That’s a shame,” he said. “This is the second time.”
McDowell was a member of the church’s production crew and a facilities maintenance manager there, police said.
Karen Webb, who had taken her mother to the church for Bible study, said she was told the victim was shot six times.
“I brought my mother up here to go to church — every Wednesday she attends Bible study. As soon as we get here I’m told someone has been shot,” Webb said. “He was one of the praise leaders.”
Dollar, a popular televangelist, started World Changers Ministries in 1986 with eight members, holding services in the cafeteria of a local elementary school, according to the church’s website. Its campus now occupies 81 acres, with services held in the 8,500-seat World Dome. Dollar is a regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Attempts to reach Dollar were unsuccessful. Ken Terry, a pastor at the church, called McDowell a “tremendous leader, role model and father.”
He said McDowell had been a longtime member of the church.
McDowell was described as an uplifting man, as evidenced by postings on his Facebook site.
In 2010, McDowell wrote, “One of the most valuable assets we can possess is a positive attitude towards our lives. Your attitude is one of the first things people notice when they come in contact with you. Make it good.”
Another time, he wrote, “Life’s too short not to enjoy it.”