Police said three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville on Monday. The shooter was identified as Audrey Hale, 28, who identifies as transgender, according to police. She was killed after engaging with officers. Photo courtesy Metro Nashville Police Department
March 27 (UPI) -- Three children and three adults were killed at a small, private Christian school in Nashville on Monday morning as police identified the female shooter, who was killed in an altercation with officers, as Audrey Hale, 28.
Hale, who was from Nashville, identifies as transgender and was a former student at The Covenant School, police confirmed at an afternoon news conference. Officers said the shooter parked her car near the school, which helped police to make the identification.
The three children killed in Monday's shooting were all 9-years-old and were identified by police as Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs. The adults killed were Katherine Koonce, 60, who was the head of the school; Cynthia Peak, 61, who was a substitute teacher; and Mike Hill, 61, a custodian, according to investigators.
No other students or staff were injured in the shooting, which Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake said appears to have been a targeted attack.
"We have a manifesto. We have some writings that we're going over that pertain to this day and actual incident. We have a map drawn out about how this was all going to take place," Drake told reporters.
"I was literally moved to tears to see this as the kids were being ushered out of the building," Drake said. "It could have been far worse."
"I was hoping this day would never, ever come here in this city. But we would never wait to make entry and to go in and to stop a threat especially when it deals with our children," Drake added, as he discussed how the shooter got into the school.
"She entered on the lower floor and shots were fired on the lower floor before she went to the upper level. And it was the upper level where she was confronted by police and killed," Drake said.
She entered the school through a side entrance armed with at least two "assault-type rifles" and a handgun and moved from the first floor to the second floor, firing multiple shots.
"The police department response was swift," said Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department. "Officers entered the first story of the school and began clearing it. They heard shots coming from the second level. They immediately went to the gunfire."
Surveillance video released Monday night by the Metro Nashville Police Department shows Hale had driven up to the school in a Honda Fit before shooting her way into the building through a side door.
Wearing a red baseball cap backwards, a black tactical-style vest, camouflage pants and glasses, Hale is seen walking through the halls of the building with with two assault rifles, one of which was drawn.
In a statement Monday night, the Metro Nashville Police Department said a call came in concerning shots fired at the school at 10:13 a.m., with officers arriving to confront Hale on the second floor in a common area as she was firing through a window at arriving police cars.
"Two members of an officer team fired on Hale and fatally wounded her," the department said.
The two officers were identified as Rex Englebert, a four-year veteran of the force, and Michael Collazo, who had been with the department nine years.
A search warrant executed at Hale's Brightwood Avenue residence produced a sawed-off shotgun, a second shotgun and "other evidence," police said.
"Writings recovered from Hale revealed that her attack was calculated and planned," the department said.
President Joe Biden called Monday's shooting at the Christian school "sick" and said it was a "family's worst nightmare."
Biden made remarks about the shooting Monday before the start of the Small Business Administration's Women's Business Summit, as he renewed his call for Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.
"It's about time that we begin to make some more progress," Biden said. "We have to do more to stop gun violence. It's ripping our communities apart. It's ripping at the very soul of the nation. We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren't turned into prisons."
"I am closely monitoring the tragic situation at Covenant and the [Tennessee Department of Safety and Tennessee Highway Patrol] are assisting local law enforcement and first responders at the scene," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday on Twitter. "As we continue to respond, please join us in praying for the school, congregation and Nashville community."
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., also issued a statement and offered assistance.
"Chuck and I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville," Blackburn said on Twitter. "My office is in contact with federal, state and local officials and we stand ready to assist. Thank you to the first responders working on site. Please join us in prayer for those affected."