NEOSHO — Prosecutors on Monday filed three murder charges against a Micronesian man accused of opening fire inside of a church, killing three people and wounding five others during a worship service of a mostly Micronesian congregation.
Prosecutors also charged the man, Eiken Elam Saimon, 52, of Newton County, with assault, felonious restraint for holding the congregation hostage, and armed criminal action. Another assault charge was pending, Newton County Prosecutor Scott Watson said.
At a news conference, police and prosecutors declined to discuss the motive. But Watson said earlier Monday that the alleged gunman had targeted congregation leaders.
“I think that you’ll find that the victims were what some would term elders or leaders (of the Micronesian congregation),” Watson said. “As information continues to come forward, it appears that the shots that were fired were not random.”
The victims were not friends or relatives of the gunman, Watson said.
Saimon also is a suspect in the alleged sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl on Saturday, Watson said. That girl is a relative of Saimon’s, although authorities did not specify how the two were related.
Saimon was being held on $5 million bond and was to be arraigned Monday afternoon in Newton County Circuit Court.
The gunman opened fire after ordering children out of the sanctuary of First Congregational Church, which the Micronesian congregation rents for its services.
Police said the shooting followed an altercation Saturday night between the suspect and a family that belonged to the congregation. It wasn’t clear if the suspect was part of the congregation or if the family was in the sanctuary during the attack.