Three students and three adults were fatally shot by a heavily armed attacker on Monday morning at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, according to the city’s Police Department. The shooter, identified as Audrey E. Hale, was a 28-year-old former student who lived in the area, officials said.
The Nashville police chief, John Drake, said on Monday that it was too early to discuss a possible motive for the shooting, though he confirmed that the attack was targeted. The authorities were reviewing writings and had made contact with the shooter’s father, Chief Drake said.
The school, called the Covenant School, is in the wealthy enclave of Green Hills, a few miles south of downtown Nashville, and has about 200 students in preschool through sixth grade. The attack on Monday was the 13th school shooting in the United States this year that resulted in injury or death, according to Education Week.
Here’s what we know so far:
The police received a report of the shooting at 10:13 a.m. on Monday and heard gunshots on the second floor when they arrived at the school, said Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.
The assailant had entered the building through a side door, armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun, and went from the first floor to the second floor firing “multiple shots,” Mr. Aaron said. Officers went to the second floor, saw the assailant shooting, and two officers opened fire, killing the shooter at 10:27 a.m., Mr. Aaron said.
Surveillance video released by the police on Monday showed the shooter drive up to the school in what the police described as a Honda Fit. In the clip, two sets of glass doors shatter from bullets before the shooter ducks into the building through the broken glass. Wearing camouflage pants, a black vest and a backward red baseball cap, the shooter walks through rooms and hallways with a weapon drawn.
Schoolchildren and members of the school’s staff were escorted out of the building after the shooting, said Kendra Loney, a spokeswoman for the Nashville Fire Department. A total of 108 people, she added, were transported to the nearby Woodmont Baptist Church, where parents were reunited with their children.
Who were the victims?
The police identified the six victims as:
— Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9
— William Kinney, 9
— Hallie Scruggs, 9, daughter of the church pastor, Chad Scruggs
— Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian
— Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher
— Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of school, according to the school website
What do we know about the shooter?
The authorities identified the shooter as Audrey E. Hale. The police said they had found writings and detailed maps of the school and its security protocols.
The assailant was “prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement” and “prepared to do more harm” before being killed, Chief Drake said. At least two of the guns used in the shooting appeared to have been purchased legally in the Nashville area, he said.
In the aftermath of the shooting, there was confusion about the shooter’s gender identity. Chief Drake said the shooter identified as transgender, and officials used “she” and “her” to refer to the attacker. But according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, the shooter appeared to identify as male in recent months.
Investigators had made contact with the shooter’s father and were carrying out an investigation at the home, Chief Drake said. As of Monday evening, the motive was unknown.
And the school?
The Covenant School is a private school that was founded in 2001 as a ministry of the Covenant Presbyterian Church. The church started the school in part because parents at the church were finding it difficult to enroll their children in other private schools in the area, according to Jim Bachmann, a former pastor at the church.
The school is “intentionally small,” according to its website, with 200 students in preschool through sixth grade, and a student-to-teacher ratio of 8-to-1. Tuition costs about $16,000 a year.
Covenant Presbyterian is a large church affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, a theologically conservative denomination. The denomination’s report on gender and sexuality, prepared in 2020, refers to “the sinfulness of homosexual and transgender desire as well as conduct.”
Chad Scruggs is the current pastor of Covenant Presbyterian. His 9-year-old daughter, Hallie Scruggs, was killed in the shooting.