Updates on Nashville school shooting: police investigation continues as city mourns

By: - March 28, 2023 8:41 am
A day after a mass shooting at The Covenant School, a woman is overcome with emotion in front of an impromptu memorial. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A day after the March 27 mass shooting at The Covenant School, a woman is overcome with emotion in front of an impromptu memorial. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A candlelight vigil to honor victims and support the families and survivors of The Covenant School shooting is scheduled for Wednesday evening outside Nashville’s City Hall.

First Lady Jill Biden is expected to attend, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Wednesday’s press briefing, as the president continues to call on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.

“Republicans in Congress need to show courage, and if they had courage, they would be introducing legislation on banning assault weapons today,” Jean-Pierre said.

Candlelight vigil

Wednesday, March 29, at 5:30 p.m.

One Public Square Park, outside City Hall

The investigation continues into Monday’s mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville where six people were killed.

Among the victims were three 9-year-old children: Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney. Staff were also killed — Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; Mike Hill, age 61, a custodian; and Covenant Head of School Katherine Koonce, 60.

The shooter was identified as a former student Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, who was killed by two of the Metro Nashville Police Officers who responded to the scene. Hale was armed with at least two assault rifles and a handgun that were purchased legally, police said.

Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators call for shooting ‘clarion call for responsible gun ownership’

The Tennessee Legislature paused floor debates after the shooting and reconvened Tuesday morning.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, in a statement released that afternoon, said members stood with Biden in calling on Congress to pass a federal assault rifle ban.

“This tragedy should serve as a clarion call for responsible gun ownership,” they said in the statement, citing 128 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2023. “When will enough be enough? Our ‘prayers’ need to become more thoughtful and intentional regarding this issue. The TBCSL respects our Second Amendment right to carry, yet this issue of senseless mass murder has become out of control. We have got to do more to protect children and all those providing an education for them. We have done nothing to address the root problem: proliferation of militarized guns in our communities.

‘We’re going to have to find a way’: Nashvillians reflect on loss

The caucus also called for a halt to pending legislation lowering the age of open carry to 18.

“As a first step, we believe this legislation should be pulled,” the statement said. “Tennessee has some of the worst regulations on background checks when purchasing a weapon in the nation; this we all agree on. Our constituents deserve real solutions. This is not about ‘politicizing the issue.’ This is about our moral obligation as lawmakers to act. We cannot normalize mass shootings! Do not allow yourselves to become desensitized to mass school shootings. It is not normal.”

Police: Shooter legally bought seven weapons; had ’emotional disorder’

The shooter who killed three children and three adults at The Covenant School was “under a doctor’s care for an emotional disorder,” Nashville Police Chief John Drake said in a news conference Tuesday morning. 

Drake said that 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale nevertheless purchased seven firearms legally from five different local gun stores, and three of those weapons were used in the mass shooting Monday. 

3 kids, 3 adults killed in shooting at Nashville private elementary school

Blake said that Hale’s parents were “under the impression” Hale owned a single firearm but sold it. 

Hale’s parents felt “she should not own a weapon,” Drake said. “As it turns out, she had been hiding several weapons in the house.”

And on Monday, when Hale left the family’s home carrying a red bag, Hale’s mother asked “what was in the bag,” Drake said. Hale dismissed the question, and Hale’s mother did not pursue it further, not knowing Hale had any weapons at the time, he said.

“Again, she lost a child, so this is very traumatic,” he said. 

Drake said there is no known motive for the shooting yet. The students who were shot “were randomly targeted,” according to police.

Law enforcement officials were unaware of Hale before yesterday’s shooting, he said.

“As it stands, we had absolutely no idea who this person was or that she even existed,” Drake said.

Monday marks Nashville’s third mass shooting in six years

The violence wrought Monday inside an elementary school is Nashville’s third mass shooting in six years. 

In 2018, four people were killed when an armed gunman entered a south Nashville Waffle House restaurant in the early hours of a Sunday morning. 

The victims were Joe Perez Jr., Taurean Sanderlin, Akilah Dasilva and DeEbony Groves.

Travis Reinking, the shooter, was sentenced to life in prison for the murders last year. 

In 2017, an armed gunman opened fire at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, killing one person and injuring six others who had gathered for Sunday services.

The shooter, Emanuel Kidega Samson, was sentenced to life in prison in 2019.

On Monday, the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ posted a message of sorrow on Facebook.

Nashville Police release body cam footage and surveillance video

Metro Police released body camera footage on Tuesday from officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo, who killed the shooter inside Covenant School. We advise caution when viewing.

The department also released a portion of school surveillance video showing Hale driving a Honda Fit through the school’s parking lot, past a playground of children on swing sets, before parking, shooting down a double door into the school and roaming empty hallways.

Police reported that Hale fired through a window at arriving police officers. Two members of an officer team fired on Hale in a second-floor common area. Those officers were identified as Englebert, who’s been with the Metro Nashville Police Department veteran for four years, and Collazo, a nine-year-veteran.

Police said they have also found writings from Hale, including a manifesto and detailed maps of the building housing the school, in searches of a home and car connected to Hale.

‘Our community is heartbroken’

Late Monday, the school also released a statement expressing heartbreak and asking for privacy.

“Our community is heartbroken. We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff, and beginning the process of healing.

“Law enforcement is conducting its investigation, and while we understand there is a lot of interest and there will be a lot of discussion about and speculation surrounding what happened, we will continue to prioritize the well-being of our community.

“We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received, and we are tremendously grateful to the first responders who acted quickly to protect our students, faculty and staff.

“We ask for privacy as our community grapples with this horrible tragedy — for our students, parents, faculty and staff.”

Report: Shooter texted friend shortly before shooting

Channel 5 also reported late on Monday that the shooter had texted a former basketball teammate in the minutes before the shooting.

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