(CNN) — Nashville police are investigating the background and motivations of a former student who entered a Christian elementary school armed with an AR-type weapon and detailed maps and opened fire, killing three children and three adults.
The shooter, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who was shot and killed by police during Monday’s attack, left behind “scribbled” drawings of the Covenant School and “how I’m going to put this all together,” according to Metropolitan Nashville Police. President John Drake.
As police work to piece together what led to the violence, authorities said they have determined where he lives in the Nashville area and have interviewed Hale’s father. Investigators are expected to process the scene Tuesday and gather more details about what happened during the roughly 14-minute terror attack at the elementary school.
The attack, said to be selective and premeditated, was the worst school shooting in nearly a year.
After the shooting, worried parents rushed to the school, terrified students and teachers were forced to take cover as gunshots rang out, and police confronted the assailant, sending the grieving campus community into a tailspin. .
In a press conference held on Monday, the Inspector General of Police said, “I was moved to tears when I saw the way the children were taken out of the building.
All three students killed were 9 years old. They were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The three adults killed in the shooting have been identified as Cynthia Peek, 61, Kathryn Koons, 60, and Mike Hill, 61, police said.
Shantell Brooks, who lost her son Aquila DaSilva in a shooting at a Nashville-area Waffle House in 2018, said Monday she was reminded of the painful moment when her other son was locked down at a nearby school.
“My heart dropped,” Brooks recalled. “Here we are again, another mass shooting.”
By CNN’s count, at least one person was injured in the 19th shooting at a school or university so far in 2023. With six victims, the Covenant shooting was the worst shooting at a school since last May’s Uvalde, Texas attack that killed 21 people.
Hale, who attended the Christian school several years ago, left writings related to the shooting and investigated a second possible shooting site in Nashville, “but because of the suspect’s threat rating — high security — he decided not to do it.” said the Inspector General of Police.
Metro Nashville said the attack on the Covenant School was “calculated and planned.”
The police chief said at a news conference that the suspect was “someone who was in possession of several rounds of ammunition, prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement, and prepared to cause more damage than was actually done.”
Three weapons were found — an AR rifle, an AR pistol and a handgun — and police believe Hale obtained at least two of the weapons legally, Drake said. A search warrant executed at Hale’s home led to the seizure of a sawed-off shotgun, a second gun and other evidence, police said.
It is not yet known who carried out the attack. Hale graduated from Nashville’s Nossey College of Art and Design last year, the school’s president confirmed to CNN, and his LinkedIn profile says he worked as a freelance graphic designer and part-time at a grocery store.
Police referred to Hale as a “female shooter” and added at an evening press conference that Hale was transgender. When asked for clarification, a spokesperson told CNN that Hale used “male pronouns” in a social media profile.
How was the shooting?
The attacker entered the elementary school armed with three guns, shot through the door, and began an onslaught that lasted about 14 minutes and spanned two floors of the school.
Surveillance video was released by Metropolitan Nashville Police showing the moment the attacker arrived at the school, shot through the glass doors and climbed inside. The video continues to show the suspect walking through the halls brandishing an assault-style weapon.
At 10:13 a.m., police received a call of an active shooter inside Covenant School and rushed to the scene. The first five officers to arrive heard gunshots coming from the second floor.
They went upstairs and confronted the assailant, who was “shooting through the window at oncoming police cars,” police said in a news release. Two officers then opened fire, and the shooter was killed at 10:27 a.m., police spokesman Dan Aaron said.
The police chief praised the five officers for their quick response.
“I hoped this day wouldn’t come to the city. But we never wait to go in and stop a threat, especially when it comes to our children,” Drake said at a news conference Monday.
Following Hale’s death, the children were pulled out of the school and taken by bus to be reunited with their families. The video shows children walking hand-in-hand in single file outside the school as community members hug each other.
“This school prepares for this with active shooter training for a reason. We don’t want to think it’s ever going to happen to us. But experience has taught us, we have to be prepared because that’s the reality this time. Back in.” Metro Nashville Councilman Russ Pulley told CNN.
Our community is heartbroken
Two Covenant School employees were among the victims of Monday’s shooting, the school said.
Kathryn Koons, identified on its website as the school’s principal, says she has a master’s degree from Georgia State University and attended Vanderbilt University’s Nashville School and Trevecca Nazarene University.
Mike Hill was identified on the staff section of the Covenant Presbyterian Church website, which is now offline. It was listed as Facilities/Kitchen Staff. A friend of Mike Hill confirmed his picture to CNN. Hill, 61, was a janitor at the school, police said.
“Our community is heartbroken. We mourn the great loss and shock of the terror that tore our school and church apart. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff and beginning the healing process,” Covenant School said in a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WZTV.
“Law enforcement is conducting their investigation and while we understand there will be a lot of interest and a lot of discussion and speculation surrounding what happened, we will continue to prioritize the well-being of our community. We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received and to protect our students, faculty and staff. “We are extremely grateful to the first responders who acted quickly. We ask for the privacy of our students, parents, faculty and staff as our community grapples with this horrific tragedy,” the statement continued.
Covenant is a private Christian school founded in 2001 Church Covenant Presbyterian and teaches preschool through 6th grade, according to its website.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said, “I am overwhelmed to think about the loss of these families, the future that these children and their families have lost.”
“Guns and shootings are the leading cause of death for children today, and that’s unacceptable,” Cooper said.
A recent study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics Supporting that claim, homicide is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in the United States, and the overall rate has increased by an average of 4.3% each year for nearly a decade.
President Joe Biden called the Nashville school shooting “heartbreaking, a family’s worst nightmare” while advocating for gun reform.
Biden said Congress should pass an assault weapons ban because “we must do more to protect our schools.” However, a bipartisan solution is highly unlikely in this Congress with a slim Democratic majority in the Senate and a GOP-led House.
CNN’s Tina Burnside, Amanda Jackson, Sara Smart, Jamiel Lynch, Curt Devine and Audrey Ash contributed to this report.
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