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Nashville gunman fired indiscriminately at victims

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – The gunman who killed three students and three staff at a Christian school in Nashville legally purchased seven guns in recent years and hid the guns from their parents before carrying out the attack by shooting indiscriminately at victims and spraying gunfire through doors and windows, police said Tuesday.

Monday’s violence at The Covenant School was the latest school shooting to rock the nation and was carefully planned. The shooter had drawn a detailed map of the school, including potential entry points, and watched the building before committing the massacre, authorities said.

The suspect, Audrey Hale, 28, was a former student of the school. Hale did not target specific victims – including three 9-year-old children and the school principal – but targeted “this school, this church”, police spokesman Don Aaron said on Tuesday. during a press conference.

Hale was under medical care for an undisclosed emotional disorder and was not known to police before the attack, Nashville Metropolitan Police Chief John Drake said at the press conference.

If the police had been told that Hale was suicidal or murderous, “then we would have tried to get those guns,” Drake said. “But as it was, we had absolutely no idea who that person was or if (Hale) even existed.”

Tennessee currently does not have a “red flag” law, which allows police to intervene and remove firearms from people who threaten to kill.

Hale legally purchased seven firearms from five local gun stores, Drake said. Three of them were used in Monday’s shooting.

Hale’s parents believed their child sold a gun and did not own any others, Drake said, adding that Hale “hid several guns in the house.”

Hale’s motive is unknown, Drake said. In an interview with NBC News on Monday, Drake said investigators don’t know what prompted Hale, but believe the shooter had “some resentment that he had to go to that school.”

Drake, during Tuesday’s press conference, described “several different writings from Hale” that mention other places and the Covenant School.

Asked at a Senate hearing whether the Justice Department would open an investigation into whether the shooting was a hate crime targeting Christians, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said federal officials were working with local police to identify a mobile.

Police have released videos of the shooting, including edited surveillance footage that shows the shooter’s car driving to school, glass doors knocked down and the shooter dodging one.

Additional video, from Constable Rex Engelbert’s body camera, shows a woman meeting police outside as they arrive and telling them that all the children were locked up, “but we have two children we don’t know where they are”.

The woman then directs the officers to Fellowship Hall and says the people inside have just heard gunshots. Three officers, including Engelbert, search the rooms one by one, holding guns and posing as police officers.

The video shows officers walking up stairs to the second floor and entering a hall, followed by a barrage of gunfire and an officer shouting twice, “Get your hands off the gun.” Next, the shooter is shown motionless on the ground.

Police have identified Engelbert, a four-year-old force member, and Michael Collazo, a nine-year-old member, as the officers who fatally shot Hale.

Aaron said there were no police present or assigned to the school at the time of the shooting, as it is a church-run school.

Police response times to school shootings came under greater scrutiny following the attack in Uvalde, Texas, in which 70 minutes passed before police forces order storm the classroom. In Nashville, police said 14 minutes passed from the initial call to the time the suspect was killed, but did not say how long it took him to arrive.

Surveillance video shows a timestamp of just before 10:11 a.m. when the assailant fired at the doors. Police said they received the call about a shooter at 10:13 a.m. The body camera footage mounted did not include a timestamp. A police spokesman did not respond to an email Tuesday asking when they arrived.

At the press conference, Drake did not respond directly to a question about how many minutes it took for police to arrive. At around 10:24 a.m., 11 minutes after receiving the call, officers engaged the suspect, he said.

”There were police cars that had been hit by gunfire. As officers approached the building, gunfire erupted,’ Drake said.

“We think, our response right now, from what I’ve seen, I don’t have a particular problem with it. But we always want to improve. We always want to get there in two or three minutes,” he said, adding that traffic was ”stuck” at the time.

Traffic was indeed brought to a halt along a nearby dual carriageway with a turning lane as police tried to make their way to the school.

Police gave unclear information about Hale’s gender. For hours on Monday, police identified the shooter as a woman. Later that day, the police chief said Hale was transgender. After the press conference, Aaron declined to elaborate on how Hale identified himself.

In an email Tuesday, police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said Hale “was assigned female at birth.” Hale used male pronouns on a social media profile.” Later Tuesday at the press conference, Drake referred to Hale with female pronouns.

Authorities have identified the dead children as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The adults were Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61.

The website of The Covenant School, a Presbyterian school founded in 2001, lists a Katherine Koonce as head of the school. Her LinkedIn profile says she has run the school since July 2016. Peak was a substitute teacher and Hill was a caretaker, according to investigators.

Koonce was remembered as someone who ran towards danger, not out of it.

“I guarantee you that if there were any missing children (during filming), Katherine was looking for them,” her friend Jackie Bailey said. “And that’s probably how she got in the way – just trying to do something for someone else. She would give her own life to save someone else’s. ”

Founded as a ministry of the Covenant Presbyterian Church, the school is in the affluent neighborhood of Green Hills, just south of downtown Nashville. It has about 200 students from kindergarten through sixth grade and about 50 staff members.

President Joe Biden said he spoke to Tennessee’s police chief, mayor and senators. He pleaded with Congress to pass tougher gun safety laws, including a ban on “assault weapons.”

“Congress must act,” Biden said. “Most Americans think having assault weapons is weird, it’s a crazy idea. They’re against it.”

Prior to Monday’s violence in Nashville, there had been seven mass shootings at K-12 schools since 2006 in which four or more people were killed in 24 hours, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. In each of them, the shooters were men.

The database does not include school shootings in which fewer than four people were killed, which have become much more common in recent years. Just last week, for example, school shootings occurred in Denver and the Dallas area within two days of each other.


Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia and Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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