NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Six people, including three 9-year-old children, were killed on Monday in a mass shooting at a private Christian grade school in Nashville, Tennessee.
It was the 129th mass shooting in the U.S. this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. More than 270 people were fatally shot or wounded in shootings on school grounds in 2022, The New York Times reported. That compares to 159 in 2018, the year that 17 students and 17 staff members were killed in the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, according to the database.
Here are some things to know about Monday’s shooting:
Where was the shooting?
The shooter entered The Covenant School in Nashville, a private Christian school that has approximately 200 students from preschool through the sixth grade.
According to its website, the school is “intentionally small” with an emphasis on relationships. The school has a student-to-teacher ratio of 8-to-1. Tuition ranges from $7,250 for three-day preschoolers to $16,500 for students in the fifth and sixth grades.
The school employs about 33 faculty members, according to The Tennessean.
The Covenant School was founded in 2001 as a ministry of the Covenant Presbyterian Church, The New York Times reported. The two entities share a location.
Who were the victims?
Three of the victims were 9-year-old students at the school: Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs. The adults killed were Mike Hill, 61, a janitor at the school; Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; and Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school.
Scruggs was the daughter of Chad Scruggs, the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, The New York Times reported, citing a biography published online by his former church in Dallas.
The 6 victims fatally shot by the active shooter at Covenant School are identified as: Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all age 9, Cynthia Peak, age 61, Katherine Koonce, age 60, and Mike Hill, age 61.— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) March 27, 2023
School’s principal was one of victims
Koonce was the head of The Covenant School in Nashville, according to its website.
According to the school’s website, Koonce, 60, received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1985. She earned her master’s degree in education from Georgia State University in 1995 and was awarded a doctorate in education at Trevecca Nazarene University, a Christian university located in Nashville, in 2015.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Koonce had been the head of The Covenant School since July 2016.
Before that, she worked for nearly 15 years at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville. She was the academic dean at the school from 2009 to 2016; before that, she was the school’s director of learning services for almost nine years.
Who was the shooter?
Police identified the shooter as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, of Nashville. Hale identified as being a transgender male who used male pronouns, police said.
During Monday’s news conference, police identified Hale by his name at birth and did not provide another name, The Tennessean reported.
Police believe Hale was a former student at The Covenant School who resented attending the facility, according to Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake. It was unclear when Hale attended the school.
“There’s some belief that there was some resentment at having to go to that school, don’t have all the details for that just yet, and that’s why this incident occurred,” Drake told NBC News in an interview Monday night.
“We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date,” the police chief said during a news conference earlier Monday.
Hale was an illustrator and graphic designer, The Tennessean reported. According to a LinkedIn profile, Hale attended Nossi College of Art in Nashville from 2018 to 2022, the newspaper reported.
Police said that Hale had detailed maps of the school and entered the building on the lower floor by shooting through a door.
Don Aaron, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, said Hale entered the school through a side entrance around 10:13 a.m. CDT.
“We know there were two AR-style weapons. One a rifle, another was an AR-style pistol and the other was a handgun,” Drake said. “We believe two of those may have been obtained legally, locally here.”
Hale walked through the first floor and onto the second, firing shots along the way, police said. Drake told reporters that police believed all of the school’s doors were locked before the shooting.
Hale was fatally shot on an upper floor of the school, police said.
Aaron said the police response to the shooter was “swift.”
“Officers entered the first story of the school and begin clearing it,” Aaron told reporters. “They heard shots coming from the second level; they immediately went to the gunfire.”
The suspect was fatally shot by a five-member police team around 10:27 a.m. CDT in a second-floor lobby, The Tennessean reported.
Reaction to the shooting was swift, with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Tennessee’s two U.S. senators and the Nashville-based Tennessee Titans among those expressing grief.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said that the city “joined the dreaded, long list of communities” that have experienced a school shooting.
In a tragic morning, Nashville joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting.— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) March 27, 2023
My heart goes out to the families of the victims. Our entire city stands with you.
As facts continue to emerge, I thank our first responders and medical professionals.
I am closely monitoring the tragic situation at Covenant, & the @TNDeptofSafety & @TNHighwayPatrol are assisting local law enforcement & first responders at the scene.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 27, 2023
As we continue to respond, please join us in praying for the school, congregation & Nashville community.
We are heartbroken by the senseless loss of life at Covenant School today. We offer our condolences to the families and friends of the victims, and the entire Covenant School community.— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) March 27, 2023
Chuck & I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville.— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) March 27, 2023
My office is in contact with federal, state, & local officials, & we stand ready to assist.
Thank you to the first responders working on site. Please join us in prayer for those affected.
Devastated and heartbroken about the tragic news at Covenant School. I'm grateful to law enforcement and first responders for their heroic actions. I am monitoring the situation closely, and my office is in contact with local officials & available to anyone needing assistance.— Senator Bill Hagerty (@SenatorHagerty) March 27, 2023
I am heartbroken and sick over the lives lost today at Covenant School. I’m praying for comfort and peace for all those affected in our community 🙏🏾♥️— Derrick Henry (@KingHenry_2) March 27, 2023
Our office is devastated by this morning’s tragedy and the loss of innocent lives at Covenant School. We are grateful for our @MNPD and @NashvilleFD partners who quickly acted to prevent further harm.— U.S Attorney-Middle District of Tennessee (@USAO_MDTN) March 27, 2023