NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Christian Examiner) – When John Eric Schmidt was charged with second-degree murder, no one could have known that less than a year later, not only would the charge have been dropped, but Schmidt would be celebrating a newfound eternal freedom through salvation in Christ.
Schmidt, 53, of North Little Rock, was charged with second-degree murder after shooting 32-year-old Chad Johnson during what Pulaski County sheriff's deputies said was a property dispute, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The incident took place at Graves Memorial Baptist Church in North Little Rock.
Schmidt, who has emergency medical training, then tried to administer first aid to Johnson, but Johnson died en route to the hospital. Schmidt required medical attention for his injuries.
Authorities recently dropped the murder charge against Schmidt, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Schmidt's lawyer, David Cannon, said the charge was dropped after it was determined Schmidt acted in self-defense, the Democrat-Gazette reported. Cannon said Chad Johnson had choked Schmidt, which had forced Schmidt to act.
In an interview with the Arkansas Baptist News shortly after the July 7 shooting, Graves Memorial Pastor Travis Matthews explained that although the event occurred on church property, it did not involve the church. He also confirmed that Schmidt and his wife had been attending Graves Memorial, though they were not members at the time – a fact that has changed over the course of the past six months.
The July tragedy turned into a ministry opportunity for Graves Memorial Baptist.
Matthews explained Schmidt's daughter had been baptized and was involved in the student ministry and praise team at the time of the shooting, so Schmidt and his wife had visited a handful of times to support her. Because of this, the groundwork had been laid for the church to minister to the family following the shooting.
Matthews said he met regularly with Schmidt, who had become very depressed in the months after the incident.
"The shooting really became an opportunity to really build a deep relationship with the family," Matthews said. "(It was) a painful journey but a way God used to bring healing in their lives overall."
Eventually, both Schmidt and his wife accepted Christ as Savior, and they were baptized at the church in September and are now active in ministry.
"I believe God takes the hard things in life, and when we surrender to God and let God do a work, you can see the fruit of God doing great things in those circumstances," Matthews said. "You don't want to make light of a horrible situation, but it definitely brings joy to see God bring beauty from ashes.
"God's definitely done some great things through it (the shooting), and I think our church has learned to love in a different way and have a compassionate spirit," he added.
As for Schmidt, he said his prayer has been that the ordeal would be "used for good and as example of the power of God and of love between Christians."
Jessica Vanderpool is senior assistant editor of Arkansas Baptist News. This article is used with permission.