UPDATE: The victims have been identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus (9), William Kinney (9), Hallie Scruggs (9), custodian Mike Hill (61), teacher Katherine Koonce (60), and Cynthia Peak (61).
Police have identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, a former student at the school. Nashville police chief John Drake said the shooter “identified as transgender,” had a manifesto, and a map of the school.
According to reports Hale’s completed rampage was thwarted after Hale was shot dead by Officer Rex Englebert and Officer Michael Collazo of the Metro Nashville Police Department.
Hale messaged friend Averianna Patton on social media the morning of the shooting informing them that “something bad” was going to happen.
Hale told Patton, “I’m planning to die today,” and “This is my last goodbye. I love you. See you again in another life.”
Patton replied, “Audrey! You have so much for life to live. I pray God keeps and covers you,” and called the suicide prevention helpline and the police.
On Monday morning (March 27), an assailant armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun entered The Covenant School located at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Burton Hills Blvd. in Nashville, Tennessee, killing three students and three adults.
The Christian elementary school teaches preschool through sixth grade and has the motto of “Shepherding Hearts, Empowering Minds, Celebrating Childhood.”
“The beauty of a PreSchool-6th school is in its simplicity and innocence,” the school’s website reads. “Students are free to be children—they can feel fully and safely known by our faculty and become leaders under their guidance.”
That simplicity, innocence, freedom, and safety was violently violated after a 28-year-old white female entered the school through a “side entrance and [traversed] her way from the first floor to the second floor, firing multiple shots,” according to a Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson.
At approximately 10:13 a.m., the Metro Nashville Police Department was notified that the school was dealing with an active shooter situation. After officers arrived at the scene, a five-member team entered the building. As they were clearing the first floor, they heard shots coming from the second floor.
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The department spokesperson reported that the officers proceeded up the stairs toward the gunfire. Two of the members of that team then engaged with the shooter, shooting and killing her just before 10:30 a.m.
At the time of the shooting, emergency dispatchers issued a mass causality alert to first responders and the local hospital to prepare for the worst.
Police investigations are ongoing, but Nashville police chief John Drake told reporters that he believes the shooter was a former student at the school.
The six victims, including the shooter, have been identified. Their names will not be disclosed to the public until the appropriate time.
“Right now I will refrain from saying the ages other than to say I was literally moved to tears to see the kids as they were being lifted out of the building,” Drake said.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Roush voiced his “heartfelt prayers to the families [and] to this community of these victims. Now I know there’ll be people who want to criticize us for prayers, but that’s the way we do it in the south. We believe in prayer. We believe in the power of prayer. So our prayers go out to these families.”
The Covenant School is located in a wealthy part of Nashville’s Williamson County.
As news of the shooting spread throughout the nation, Christian leaders asked followers of Jesus to pray for those involved.
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Evangelist Franklin Graham tweeted, “Please join me in praying for the students, faculty, staff, and families of The Covenant School in Nashville, TN, in the wake of a shooting this morning where at least three children and three adults are reported dead. May God comfort and uphold these families.”