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Three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private religious school in Nashville, authorities said.
The shooter, who police said was a white 28-year-old from the Nashville area, was shot dead by two officers. Police initially identified the shooter as a woman but a spokesperson later told WPLN’s Alexis Marshall that the shooter was assigned female at birth and used he/him pronouns.
The shooting occurred at The Covenant School. The three children who died were students, and the three adults who died were staff members, Nashville police spokesperson Don Aaron said in a press briefing Monday.
Authorities identified the victims Monday afternoon:
Evelyn Dieckhaus, age 9
Hallie Scruggs, age 9
William Kinney, age 9
Cynthia Peak, age 61
Katherine Koonce, age 60
Mike Hill, age 61
Koonce served as the head of the school, according to the school’s website.
The first call came in at 10:13 a.m. The shooter “entered the school through a side entrance and traversed her way from the first floor to the second floor, firing multiple shots,” Aaron said.
On Monday evening, Nashville police posted photos of the scene. Police said the shooter entered the building by shooting out the glass in a door. Once on the second floor, the shooter fired at arriving police vehicles from a window.
The shooter had two assault-style rifles and one pistol, authorities said, and the shooting took place in a “lobby-type area” in an upper part of the school. The shooter was dead by 10:27 a.m., Aaron added. Two of those guns were obtained legally, police said.
Police said the shooter was a former student but have not said anything about a potential motive. On Monday afternoon, police identified the shooter as Audrey Hale of Nashville. Hale had no criminal history.
Hale had multiple rounds of ammunition and was “prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement,” Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. He said the shooter had maps drawn of the school and its entry points.
Drake said the parents of the children who were killed have been notified. “I was literally moved to tears to see this and the kids as they were being ushered out of the building,” he said earlier.
At least five of the victims were transported to emergency departments at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed to NPR that three children and two adults sent to the hospital had died.
Aaron said he was not aware of any other gunshot victims from the shooting. He said a responding officer had a wound from cut glass.
A reunification center for parents and students was set up nearby with mental health specialists available.
According to its website, The Covenant School is a private school associated with the Covenant Presbyterian Church serving students from preschool through sixth grade. On a regular day there would be about 209 students and 42 staff members at the school, Aaron said.
Mayor John Cooper said Nashville was joining the “dreaded, long list” of cities and towns that have suffered school shootings.
“My heart goes out to the families of the victims,” Cooper said. “Our entire city stands with you.”
Tennessee state Rep. Bob Freeman, whose district includes the school, said it was “an unimaginable tragedy for the victims, all the children, families, teachers, staff and my entire community. I live around the corner from Covenant and pass by it often. I have friends who attend both church and school there. I have also visited the church in the past. It tears my heart apart to see this,” WPLN reported.
State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, who represents Nashville, said on Twitter: “My heart breaks for the families at Covenant. As a parent, I both ache for them and rage with them that fear of this kind of tragedy is just accepted as just part of what it means to raise kids these days.”
President Biden called the Nashville shooting “sick” and “heartbreaking,” saying it was “a family’s worst nightmare.”
“We have to do more to stop gun violence. It’s ripping our communities apart, ripping at the very soul of our nation,” he said at the White House.
According to the national Gun Violence Archive website, there have been 130 mass shootings in the U.S. this year.
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