Georgia Megachurch Shooting Suspect to Face Murder Trial

A judge ruled Friday that Floyd Palmer, who is accused of fatally shooting a volunteer prayer leader during a service at World Changers Church International in Atlanta, Ga., will face a murder trial.

Fulton County Magistrate Judge Karen Smith Woodson said Friday there is probable cause to move forward with charges of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony against Palmer, The Associated Press reported.

Palmer gunned down 39-year-old Greg McDowell, who was leading a prayer meeting at the megachurch in College Park, on Oct. 24, 2012.

The victim's mother attended Friday's hearing.

Fulton County police detective John Cross testified before the court, citing witnesses who said McDowell had been pacing back and forth during the prayer service but stopped as Palmer approached the front of the chapel. He opened fire when McDowell reached the pulpit and continued to shoot once the victim had fallen to the floor.

Police said McDowell was shot 12 times.

Cross added that Palmer did not legally own a gun. He had tried to buy two guns at a gun show in Savannah two months earlier but was turned down because he falsified information on his application, failing to disclose his prior mental health history.

Palmer was an employee of the megachurch led by Pastor Creflo Dollar for about one and a half years before he resigned on Aug. 21. McDowell had reportedly supervised Palmer at some point.

Defense attorney Drew Findling, who had earlier said that Palmer's mental competency must be evaluated, did not raise the issue Friday.

Palmer spent 18 months in a psychiatric hospital in 2004 after being charged for a mosque shooting. Police records also show that he shot a co-worker while he was a security guard at a Baltimore mosque in June 2001.

During a psychological evaluation before the trial, Palmer said the shooting happened in part because he thought he was targeted by NFL player Ray Lewis and members of his own family.

McDowell, a father of two, was buried on Oct. 30.

Hours after McDowell was killed, Pastor Dollar addressed the shooting during the Bible study that evening. "We discovered that one of our very faithful, loving, kind servant ... a gentleman, who serves our ministry on Wednesdays and Fridays and opens the door for my mother and for many of you, walked in on Wednesday this morning and – as his duties are on every Wednesday, making sure things are in place – but this Wednesday, as another very dear friend of ours, an employee of the church, a friend of the ministry, was doing corporate prayer and, while he was praying, he was shot several times and fell dead as he was leading corporate prayer."

The minister added, "I guess many people say 'what was that?' because we work so hard to try to be prepared for the evil that comes from the outside in, and we work so hard to be prepared for the challenges that come from the outside in. But sometimes you have to be careful because you can be clipped by something from the inside, from behind. That's what happened today."

A Fulton County grand jury is expected to be convened in February.

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