A 28-year-old former student shot through a door to get inside a private Christian school in Nashville before killing three nine-year-old students and three adults in their 60s, US authorities said.
The shooter, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, entered the Covenant School via a side door and was armed with at least two assault-style rifles and a handgun, said Metro Nashville Police spokesperson Don Aaron.
It’s understood Hale shot the glass out of doors before entering, then as officers responded, she fired at police from a second-storey window.
At least two of rifles used in the attack were believed to have been obtained legally in the Nashville area.
Hale fired multiple shots on the first and second floors of the school before police fatally shot them on the second floor, Aaron said.
The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all 9 years old, and adults Cynthia Peak, 61; Katherine Koonce, 60; and Mike Hill, 61.
Police gave unclear information on the gender of the shooter.
For hours, police identified the shooter as a 28-year-old woman and eventually identified the person as Audrey Hale.
Then at a late afternoon press conference, the police chief said that Hale was transgender.
After the news conference, police spokesperson Don Aaron declined to elaborate on how Hale currently identified.
Police say the suspect had drawn a detailed map of the school, including potential entry and exit points, and done surveillance before arriving at the school.
Police said they believe Hale was a former student at The Covenant School, a Presbyterian school founded in 2001.
The first call on the shooting came in at 10.13am (US Central Daylight Time) and the shooter was dead at 10.27am, he said.
One police officer who responded to the scene was wounded from cut glass, he added.
There were no other people wounded.
US President Joe Biden called the shooting “heartbreaking, a family’s worst nightmare”.
The president, who was speaking at Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Summit on Monday, said more needs to be done to stop gun violence.
Biden called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, saying we “need to do more to protect our schools.”
“It’s about time we began to make some more progress,” he said.
The incident is the 19th shooting at a school or university so far this year in which at least one person was wounded, according to a CNN tally.
Last week, two faculty members were shot and wounded by a student at a high school in Denver, Colorado, and the student was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
With six victims, Monday’s attack is the deadliest school shooting since the heinous attack in Uvalde, Texas, last May that left 21 people dead.
The Nashville victims were pronounced dead upon arrival at the Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital, according to Craig Boerner, a spokesperson for Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, which is affiliated with the children’s hospital.
Other students walked to safety on Monday, holding hands as they left their school surrounded by police cars, to a nearby church to be reunited with their parents.
Police officers with rifles, heavy vests and helmets could be seen walking through the school parking lot and around the grassy perimeter of the building Monday morning.
Helicopter footage from WTVF also showed the officers looking around a wooded area between the campus and a nearby road.
Jozen Reodica heard the police sirens and fire trucks blaring from outside her office building nearby.
As her building was placed under lockdown, she took out her phone and recorded the chaos.
“I thought I would just see this on TV,” she said.
“And right now, it’s real.”
On WTVF TV, reporter Hannah McDonald said her mother-in-law works at the front desk at The Covenant School.
The woman had stepped outside for a break Monday morning and was coming back when she heard gunshots, McDonald said during a live broadcast.
The reporter said she had not been able to speak with her mother-in-law but her husband had.
The Covenant School was founded as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in 2001, according to the school’s website.
The school is located in the affluent Green Hill neighbourhood just south of downtown Nashville, situated close to the cities top universities and home to the famed Bluebird Cafe – a beloved spot for musicians and songwriters.
The grade school has 33 teachers, the website said. The school’s website features the motto “Shepherding Hearts, Empowering Minds, Celebrating Childhood”.
Democratic state Representative Bob Freeman, whose district includes The Covenant School, called Monday’s shooting an “unimaginable tragedy”.
“I live around the corner from Covenant and pass by it often. I have friends who attend both church and school there,” Freeman said in a statement.
“I have also visited the church in the past. It tears my heart apart to see this.”
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Last modified: September 26, 2022
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