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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

What we know about the Nashville school shooting

A still image from surveillance video provided by police shows the shooter, identified as Audrey Hale, clambering through the door after shattering the glass with bullets at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday, March 27, 2023.

By Adeel Hassan

Federal and local investigators in Nashville, Tennessee, were working Tuesday to piece together clues about the actions and motives of the shooter who killed three students and three adults at a private school before being shot dead by police.

The assailant who opened fire at the Christian elementary school in Nashville on Monday was identified by officials as Audrey E. Hale, 28, a former student who lived in the area.

Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Monday that the attack was targeted, rather than random, but that it was too early to discuss a possible motive. Local and federal investigators working on the case were reviewing writings and had made contact with the shooter’s father, Drake said.

The school, called the Covenant School, is in the wealthy Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville, a few miles south of downtown, and enrolls about 200 students in preschool through sixth grade. The attack Monday was the 13th school shooting in the United States this year that resulted in injury or death, according to Education Week.

Here’s what we know so far:

What happened?

The police received a report of the shooting at 10:13 a.m. Monday and heard gunshots on the second floor when they arrived at the school, said Don Aaron, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

The assailant had entered the building through a side door, armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun, and went from the first floor to the second floor firing “multiple shots,” Aaron said. Officers went to the second floor, saw the assailant shooting, and two officers opened fire, killing the shooter at 10:27 a.m., Aaron said.

Surveillance video released by the police Monday showed the shooter drive up to the school in what police described as a Honda Fit. In the clip, two sets of glass doors shatter from bullets before the shooter ducks into the building through the broken glass. Wearing camouflage pants, a black vest and a backward red baseball cap, the shooter walks through rooms and hallways with a weapon drawn.

Schoolchildren and members of the school’s staff were escorted out of the building after the shooting, said Kendra Loney, a spokesperson for the Nashville Fire Department. A total of 108 people, she added, were transported to the nearby Woodmont Baptist Church, where parents were reunited with their children.

Who were the victims?

The police identified the six victims as:

— Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9

— William Kinney, 9

— Hallie Scruggs, 9, daughter of the church pastor, Chad Scruggs

— Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian

— Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher

— Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of school, according to the school website

What do we know about the shooter?

Authorities identified the shooter as Audrey E. Hale. Police said they had found writings and detailed maps of the school and its security protocols.

The assailant was “prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement” and “prepared to do more harm” before being killed, Drake said. At least two of the guns used in the shooting appeared to have been purchased legally in the Nashville area, he said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, there was confusion about the shooter’s gender identity. Drake said the shooter identified as transgender, and officials used “she” and “her” to refer to the attacker. But according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, the shooter appeared to identify as male in recent months.

Investigators had made contact with the shooter’s father and were carrying out an investigation at the home, Drake said. As of Monday evening, the motive was unknown.

And the school?

The Covenant School is a private school that was founded in 2001 as a ministry of the Covenant Presbyterian Church. The church started the school in part because parents at the church were finding it difficult to enroll their children in other private schools in the area, according to Jim Bachmann, a former pastor at the church.

The school is “intentionally small,” according to its website, with 200 students in preschool through sixth grade, and a student-to-teacher ratio of 8-1. Tuition costs about $16,000 a year.

Covenant Presbyterian is a large church affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, a theologically conservative denomination.

Chad Scruggs is the current pastor of Covenant Presbyterian. His 9-year-old daughter, Hallie, was killed in the shooting.

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