Among the six victims who died in the school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday (March 27) was Hallie Scruggs, the nine-year-old daughter of Covenant Presbyterian Church senior pastor Chad Scruggs and his wife Jada.
“We are heartbroken. She was such a gift. Through tears we trust that she is in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again,” Hallie’s father told ABC News.
The Covenant School, where the shooting took place, is a private elementary school operated by the church.
At approximately 10:13 a.m., 28-year-old Audrey Hale, a former student of The Covenant School, entered the school by shooting out locked doors. Hale, armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun, then walked through the school, shooting victims until being apprehended by Metro Nashville Police Department officers.
Hale shot and killed Evelyn Dieckhaus (9), William Kinney (9), Hallie Scruggs (9), custodian Mike Hill (61), substitute teacher Cynthia Peak (61), and Head of the School Katherine Koonce (60).
Authorities have reported that Hale “identified as transgender” and had a manifesto and map of the school. On the morning of the shooting, Hale messaged friend Averianna Patton through social media to warn her that “something bad” was about to happen.
Hale said, “This is my last goodbye. I love you. See you again in another life. I’m planning to die today.”
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When Patton saw the message, she replied, “Audrey! You have so much for life to live. I pray God keeps and covers you.” Patton then called the suicide prevention helpline and the police.
Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake told reporters that Hale was “under doctor care for an emotional disorder.”
The Covenant School said in a statement, “We are grieving a tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church.”
The school expressed gratitude for the “outpouring of support” they have received, adding that they are “tremendously grateful to the first responders who acted quickly to protect our students, faculty, and staff.”
Body camera footage released by the Metro Nashville Police Department showed just how quickly officers reacted after arriving on the scene and entering the building. Officers can be seen running toward the sound of Hale’s gunshots without hesitation in order to subdue the assailant.
Hannah Williams, a former babysitter for the Scruggs family, described the family’s love for Jesus as something that isn’t just displayed on Sundays, but every single day.
“They are a family that has impacted more people than they will ever know,” Williams said, going on to express that no one ever thinks that these kinds of tragedies can “happen to you or someone you know…until it does.”