Nashville school shooting updates: Authorities search for answers with motive unknown

Written by on March 28, 2023

Benjamin Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Authorities are searching for answers after a shooter killed six people at a private Christian elementary school in Tennessee’s capital city on Monday morning.

The suspect — identified as Audrey Hale, 28, of Nashville — had a detailed map of the Covenant School and allegedly shot through the door to gain entry before gunning down three students and three staff members, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. A motive remains unknown.

“We have not been able to determine a motive as of yet. The investigation is still very much ongoing,” Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake told ABC News in an interview Tuesday on Good Morning America.

The slain children were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all 9 years old. The deceased adults were identified as 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61-year-old custodian Mike Hill and 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, who was head of the school, according to police.

“Yesterday was just a tragic event,” Drake told ABC News. “I’ve does this job for 35 years and I prayed that this would never, never be a day that we would have to deal with.”

The suspect was armed with at least two assault-style rifles as well as a handgun. At least two of those weapons were purchased legally and locally, according to police.

Investigators have also searched the suspect’s home in Nashville, where they seized “a sawed-off shotgun, a second shotgun and other evidence,” according to a police press release.

About 14 minutes after the initial 911 call came in, officers shot and killed the suspect in a lobby area on the second floor of the school, police said.

Investigators believe the suspect was a former student. The suspect had a map “of how this was all going to take place” as well as “writings,” and it appears the shooting was a targeted attack, according to Drake.

“We do have writings and a book we consider to be like a manifesto,” the police chief told ABC News. “We do have a map of the school, where it was diagramed how she would enter and how she might proceed to take on potential victims.”

There is also “some speculation that the shooter did reach out to maybe a friend or some other people,” Drake said, “but as of right now that’s unconfirmed.”

“We’ll continue picking up where we left off yesterday and see where it leads us,” he added. “As soon as we know more, we’ll continue to put the facts out there as we are able to confirm them.”

Drake had told reporters on Monday that the suspect was female and identified as transgender but didn’t immediately provide more details. A police spokesperson later told ABC News that the suspect was assigned female at birth but pointed to a social media account linked to the alleged shooter that included the use of the pronouns he/him.

The Covenant School is for students in preschool through sixth grade. There are about 209 students and 40 to 50 staff members. It does not have a school resource officer, according to police.

In a statement released Monday night, the Covenant School said its community “is heartbroken.”

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

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Current track