Church shooting a mystery

Former worker to be buried today in New York

Just before he was shot to death behind the pulpit of the World Changers Church International two Saturdays ago, Air Force Staff Sgt. John Givens had been packing and moving into a new apartment.

He told his wife he was hungry.

Their cars loaded, the couple drove to the restaurant separately.

Soon he was missing. So was his good suit for the church.

About two hours later on July 30, a Fulton County officer — acting on a complaint from the church about a man with odd, menacing behavior — scuffled with Givens and shot him five times.

The 27-year-old airman, based in Brunswick, died at the megachurch in College Park where he had once worked as a security guard. He will be buried today in his hometown, Elmira, N.Y., leaving agonizing questions of his death.

“I am very, very puzzled. I don’t have a clue why he went to the church,” said his wife, Ebony, the mother of their son, Jalin, 4. “I am so shocked and beyond disbelief.”

His wife said there was nothing unusual about his behavior earlier in the day, but that had changed markedly at the church.

He wore no shirt. He yelled, “I got the Bible codes.” He told them he was getting married. He ran.

Around 7 p.m. his wife telephoned him after getting separated, but got no answer. When she returned to the apartment, she said she noticed his suit for the church missing.

At 8 p.m. Givens called his cousin, Shawnda Fullwood, and asked her to join him at the early service at World Changers the next day.

Around 9 p.m. he walked into the church lobby and banged on the door. Church workers had been mopping the floor and sweeping the hallways for the morning service.

He asked a security guard whether he could use the telephone, said spokeswoman Janette Smith. The guard did not know he was a former employee.

“I’m getting married tomorrow. They’re after me for the code,” Givens said, according to a witness statement.

He tried dialing, but stopped.

Then he took off running through the lobby, out of a back door and into the church’s sanctuary, Smith said.

Unarmed security guards and maintenance workers followed.

They dialed 911 and told police the stranger had become violent and uncontrollable.

When Lt. Dean Melvin from the county’s Southside precinct arrived, Givens was ranting incoherently, according to Melvin’s report, and ran into a hallway behind the pulpit.

Givens wouldn’t calm down and charged Melvin, according to the report.

The officer struck back with his baton. Then, Melvin reached for his gun and told the man to stop. But, according to the report, the soldier charged Melvin, trying to reach for the officer’s gun.

Melvin fired several rounds.

Though he was not a regular, his family said Givens considered World Changers his chapel. The ivory-domed College Park church of 23,000 worshippers is headed by Creflo Dollar.

“He worshipped that man,” said Fullwood, the cousin he had called before the shooting. She said Givens listened to recorded tapes of Dollars’ sermons.

After spending seven years in the Air Force, he left to work as a security guard for World Changers in October 2003, earning about $10 an hour. He remained as a National Guardsman.

Givens resigned on good terms from the church the following June to work at a cable company for more pay.

But the new job didn’t last because he was called back to the Air Force to serve full time.

Givens was a staff sergeant at Brunswick’s 224th Joint Communications Support Squadron of the Georgia Air National Guard, a highly technical division that operates computers and satellites.

“We’d like to know what his state of mind was,” said the church spokeswoman, Smith. “He wasn’t himself.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA
Aug. 9, 2005
Charles Yoo

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 10, 2005.
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