Six people, including three children were shot dead on Monday (March 27) at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee by a heavily-armed 28-year-old former student. The suspect was later shot and killed by police.
While the motive was not immediately known, police chief John Drake told the press the suspect had drawn detailed maps of the school, including entry points for the building, and left behind a “manifesto” and other writings which investigators were examining.
The suspect, identified as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, was a resident of the Nashville area and was reportedly referred to by female pronouns. The police chief said the suspect identified as transgender but provided no further details.
According to Reuters, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said they began receiving calls at 10.13am (4pm UK time) of a shooter at the Covenant School, and arriving officers reported hearing gunfire coming from the building’s second floor. Two officers from a five-member team shot the assailant in a lobby area, and the suspect was pronounced dead by 10.27am.
In a video released by the police after the shooting, the assailant is seen blasting through glass doors with gunfire and roaming the halls while brandishing a semi-automatic rifle. Hale wore a black vest over a white T-shirt, camouflage pants and a backwards red baseball hat in a video that showed only the shooter in the frame.
Drake said police were working on a theory about what may have precipitated the shooting. He said the suspect had no known prior criminal history. However, later in an interview, he said investigators believed the shooting stemmed from “some resentment” the suspect harboured “for having to go to that school” as a younger person.
According to Reuters, the police chief did not specify the nature of such presumed resentment, or whether it had anything to do with the suspect’s gender identity or the Christian orientation of the school. Drake said the school was singled out for attack but the individual victims were targeted at random.
Who were the victims?
The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all age nine, along with staffers Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian, Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher, and Katherine Koonce, 60, listed on the Covenant website as "head of school."
Reported school shootings in the US in 2023
According to Reuters, there have been 89 school shootings - defined as any incident in which a gun is discharged on school property in the US this year alone. The figure, which was based on the K-12 School Shooting Database, saw 303 such incidents, the highest of any year recorded, which goes back to 1970.
Who is Nashville shooting suspect Audrey Hale?
According to Sky News, the attacker went by the name of Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who initially police thought was a teenager. Hale was a Nashville resident and lived with parents.
Police say the suspect had two assault-style weapons and a handgun. At least two were purchased legally.