By Chris Turner
Baptist and Reflector
Sonny Melton, 29, who grew up in Big Sandy and attended Ramble Creek Baptist Church (Western District Association), was killed when he was struck by gun fire while shielding his wife, Heather Melton.
“It’s rocked this whole community,” said Jim Twilbeck, director of missions for the Western District Association. “It’s not that big and everybody knows everybody. Everybody knew Sonny. Everybody thought a whole lot of him.”
Country recording artist Jason Aldeen was performing when constant gun fire sounding like a string of firecrackers could be heard above the music. The intense barrage lasted for several seconds before pausing. Moments later a second barrage ripped through the crowd. As of Monday afternoon, 59 are reported dead and more than 500 injured in what is being called the worst mass shooting in US history. The gunman fired through two different windows of this 32-floor hotel room that was more than 1,000 feet from the open-air concert venue.
Melton attended Ramble Creek while growing up and before leaving for Union University where he completed his Bachelor of Science in Nursing Accelerated degree and served as president of his BSNA class. He was employed at Henry County Medical Center.
“The Union University School of Nursing is in shock today, as we learned of the tragic death of Sonny Melton,” said Kelly Harden, dean, Union University School of Nursing. “Our hearts are broken for his family, friends and colleagues. Sonny was energetic, enthusiastic and had a positive attitude that was infectious. He had a love for people, and was a natural choice for class president. You could not help but smile when you saw him, whether that was in class or taking care of patients.
“Nursing was his calling, and he served well as the hands and feet of Jesus. We are all better for having known him. Even as we grieve his passing, we rejoice in the fact that in Christ we have victory over death.”
Heather Melton is from Paris and is an orthopedic surgeon at HCMC. The couple had been married a little more than a year and were in the process of building a house on Kentucky Lake. In a statement, she reportedly told Fox News that she was “in complete disbelief and despair,” adding, “Sonny was the most kind-hearted, loving man I have ever met. He saved my life and lost his.”
Kelley Brewer, longtime deacon and former music leader at Ramble Creek Baptist Church, said Melton’s mother, Susan, now leads music at Ramble Creek Baptist Church. Melton’s grandmother is also a member.
‘We’re just a small congregation of about 45,” Brewer said. “Sonny was a local boy who was a good kid and grew up and did pretty well for himself. Living in a small town you never expect anything like this to happen around here, and it’s shocking to hear about something like this happening to one of your own so far from home.”
Tennessee Baptist Mission Board President and Executive Director Randy C. Davis said the shooting was shocking news to wake up to and a “blow” to hear of someone from Tennessee being involved.
“Speaking on behalf of all Tennessee Baptists, my heart goes out to Heather, Sonny’s family and friends in the Paris area, and Ramble Creek Baptist Church,” Davis said. “Such a senseless and devastating loss. We are praying for Heather and the entire Melton family.”