Chris Lieberman, FISM News
More details are emerging in Monday’s tragic shooting at a Christian school in Nashville that left 7 dead, including the identity and possible motives of the attacker, as well as the swift reaction of the local police that saved lives.
The tragic shooting occurred at The Covenant School, a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church that teaches students from preschool through 6th grade.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Hale at a news conference on Monday. Hale was a former student at Covenant School who at some point began identifying as a transgender woman. While there was initial confusion over the sex of the perpetrator, police later confirmed that Hale was a biological female.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) released body cam footage Tuesday morning from MNPD Officers Rex Engelbert, a 4-year veteran, and Michael Collazo, a 9-year veteran. Both officers fired at the suspect, who was killed in the exchange.
The footage shows the police acted swiftly and directly with the goal of stopping the shooter once they arrived at the school.
(Click here to view the video on Youtube. Warning: graphic content)
Monday night, the department released surveillance footage of the shooter driving around the building before shooting out a door and entering the hallways. The police did not release any footage of the shooter in the act of shooting any victims.
VICTIMS, WEAPONS IDENTIFIED
Police also released the names of the victims: 9-year-olds Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney; 61-year-old Cynthia Peak; 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, and 61-year-old Mike Hill. The three adults were employees at the school. Koonce was the head of the school, according to the school’s website. Scruggs is the daughter of the church’s lead pastor, Chad Scruggs.
According to Chief Drake, Hale was armed with “two AR-style weapons” — a rifle and a pistol with an extended barrel — as well as a handgun. She entered the school by shooting through a side door. Once she gained access, Hale patrolled the school and fired multiple shots on the first and second floors of the building, killing 6 victims. The first call to the police came at 10:13 a.m. Hale was killed by police at 10:27 a.m.
After searching Hale’s apartment, police discovered that Hale had meticulously planned the attack, finding, “maps drawn of the school in detail, surveillance, entry points.” Authorities found evidence that Hale intended to target another location, but after conducting a “threat assessment,” determined that there was “too much security” and abandoned the plan.
The search also uncovered a manifesto, which police turned over to the FBI. While authorities have not yet revealed a motive, Drake told NBC News Monday, “There’s some belief that there was some resentment for [Hale] having to go to that school.”
WTVF, a Nashville CBS affiliate, has reported a message exchange between Hale and her former middle school basketball teammate Averianna Patton just minutes before the attack. At 9:57 a.m., Hale told Patton that an Instagram post she made that morning “was basically a suicide note. I’m planning to die today.”
Patton pleaded with her to reconsider, but Hale told her, “One day this will make more sense. I’ve left behind more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen.” Patton then called the suicide prevention hotline and the Nashville sheriff’s office.
MAYOR, PRESIDENT RESPOND
Nashville Mayor John Cooper issued a statement Monday.
In a tragic morning, Nashville joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. Our entire city stands with you. As facts continue to emerge, I thank our first responders and medical professionals.
President Joe Biden called the shooting “heartbreaking, a family’s worst nightmare.” He also used the occasion to call for stricter gun control, calling on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.
The Covenant School is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church that teaches students from preschool through 6th grade.
Monday’s tragedy was the deadliest school shooting since the attack on a school in Uvalde, Texas last May that left 21 dead.