The mass shooter who killed three children and three staffers at a Nashville Christian school on Monday, March 27, has been identified by police as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, of Nashville, a former student of The Covenant School.
Hale, who identified as transgender, had no previous criminal record, according to Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake. Police say Hale’s attack was carefully planned out.
The six victims of the shooting include three nine-year-olds — Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney — 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, 61-year-old Mike Hill, and 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, the head of The Covenant School. All were pronounced dead at local area hospitals.
The Covenant School is a private Christian school for grades K-6 located in the Green Hills neighborhood, a toney suburban enclave of Nashville.
According to the school’s website, the school not only seeks to educate students but instill strong religious values in them, holding daily services at the school’s chapel and emphasizing service-learning, in which students apply knowledge and critical thinking to address pressing community needs.
Drake said investigators found a manifesto, maps of the school, and writings from Hale indicating that the shooting was deliberately planned out.
“We have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date the actual incident,” he said. “We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.”
Metro Nashville police have declined to release any additional information about a possible motive for the shooting.
“There’s right now a theory that we may be able to talk about later, but it’s not confirmed,” Drake told reporters on Monday afternoon.
According to NBC News, when asked specifically if Hale’s gender identity may have factored into a potential motive, Drake replied, “There is some theory to that, we’re investigating all the leads.”
Although The Covenant School’s doors are usually kept locked, Hale was able to enter the school by shooting through a side door and opened fire while walking up a flight of stairs leading to the school’s second floor, reports The National Desk.
Hale was heavily armed, and was carrying an assault rifle, a AR-style handgun, and a handgun during the attack, according to Metro Nashville police. Two of those three weapons had been legally obtained, Drake told reporters.
Police received an initial call about an active shooter at 10:13 a.m., according to The New York Post. Responding officers began clearing the first floor of the school after hearing gunshots from the second floor.
Hale was confronted by five Nashville police officers on the second floor of the school around 10:27 a.m. Two of those officers opened fire, killing Hale instantly, according to reports.
Drake praised the officers for taking on the shooter immediately, stating that the situation “could have been far, far worse.”
Police were ultimately able to identify Hale as the shooter through a car parked near the shooting scene.
According to NBC News, police tactical units used a grenade-like device to enter a house in Nashville, which is listed as Hale’s residence.
Drake said investigators have been searching through Hale’s home, looking for additional evidence or clues pointing to a possible motive.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) tweeted that he was “closely monitoring the situation at the school and that the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security and the Tennessee Highway Patrol had been dispatched to the scene to assist local law enforcement and first responders.
“As we continue to respond, please join us in praying for the school, congregation & Nashville community,” Lee tweeted.
I am closely monitoring the tragic situation at Covenant, & the @TNDeptofSafety & @TNHighwayPatrol are assisting local law enforcement & first responders at the scene.
As we continue to respond, please join us in praying for the school, congregation & Nashville community.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 27, 2023
President Joe Biden called the shooting “heartbreaking” and a “family’s worst nightmare,” reports Politico.
“We have to do more to stop gun violence; it’s ripping our communities apart — ripping the soul of this nation,” Biden said. “And we have to do more to protect our schools, so they aren’t turned into prisons.”
He also revived his longstanding call for reinstating a federal assault weapons ban, calling on Congress to take action. Biden helped pass an assault weapons ban as part of the 1994 crime bill when he was a U.S. senator, but the ban was allowed to expire after 10 years under the administration of George W. Bush.
However, despite Biden’s calls for reform, such action is unlikely, particularly given Republican control of the House of Representatives and a narrow 51-49 Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, well short of the three-fifths majority needed to overcome a filibuster and move an assault weapons ban to the floor.
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