America’s most recent mass school shooting was over in minutes. On March 27, Audrey Hale, 28, shot their way through the glass doors of The Covenant School in Nashville with one of three semi-automatic assault weapons they had brought for what Nashville Metropolitan Police Chief John Drake said was a “targeted attack” on the school. Hale was a former student at The Covenant School, which is a K-6 Christian school, according to police.
Police have learned from a manifesto Hale left in their car that the school was the target. But police said no individuals were targeted “despite internet rumors,” and all were, according to police, shot indiscriminately as the shooter came upon them, except for the first victim, who Hale did not see, but who was in the line of fire when they shot through the doors. Hale also shot at police from a second story window of the school. CNN reporter Dianne Galllagher said on the 2 p.m. broadcast that police believe that Hale had some weapons training based on the way Hale shot at them. Gallagher said that police told her they believe Hale was “quite adept with firearms.”
Before police located and killed Hale on the second floor of the school, Hale had killed three children and three adult staff. The first victim was the school’s custodian, Mike Hill, 61, who was killed when Hale shot through the school’s front doors. Police said the school’s headmistress, Katherine Koonce, 60, was killed in a hallway, and appears to have been running toward the shooter, likely in an attempt to stop Hale. The third staffer was Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher at the school.
The children were all 9 years old: William Kinney, Evelyn Dieckhaus, and Hallie Scruggs. Scruggs was the only daughter of Chad Scruggs, the senior pastor at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, which shares a location with the Covenant School.
Video from school surveillance shows that Hale drove to the school, parked, shot through the doors and then walked through the hallways looking for victims, then went up to the second floor of the school. There is no sound in those videos. Hale is wearing camouflage pants, a white T-shirt and a red cap turned backwards.
Police reported Hale was found with an assault rifle, 9mm rifle and handgun when police engaged and opened fire on Hale, ending the attack. Hale died following the action of officers who responded to the scene.
Drake says Hale, who lived at home with their parents, purchased seven weapons legally from five different local stores. Hale’s parents told Nashville police that Hale was under a doctor’s care for an “emotional disorder.” The parents also told police they did not feel Hale should have any weapons and had asked Hale to get rid of the one weapon they were aware was in Hale’s possession. The parents told detectives they were under the belief the weapon had been sold.
Drake said there were other targets, including a mall, outlined in materials obtained at Hale’s residence following Monday’s shooting. In an interview with CBS This Morning on March 28, Drake said, “We think (Monday’s shooting) was targeted and planned.”
Drake also said, “We strongly believe there were going to be other targets, including maybe family members and one of the malls here in Nashville.”
On March 29, in a CNN interview on the noon broadcast, Drake said that police are examining a 60-page notebook manifesto left by Hale. The shooter had various writings and maps of the school, as well as drawings of how to enter, Drake said, adding Hale left home Monday morning with a red bag and that Hale’s mother did not know weapons were inside, but had asked Hale about the bag and been shrugged off by Hale.
Drake told CNN in the March 29 interview that police found written material along with a map describing how an assault on a Nashville elementary school would unfold, as well as a plan to shoot up a different school the assailant scrapped because of “too much security’’ as well as a mall area nearby.
Drake also said that police had investigated whether there had been problems for Hale when they were a student at The Covenant School, and had found nothing. But Drake had said in a press conference on March 28 that Hale might have held some “resentment” toward the school, though he did not detail why.
According to a now-deleted website, Hale was a Nashville-based illustrator and graphic designer who created logos and branding to “help tell a company’s story” and “bring a whimsical and light-hearted feel.”
Hale graduated from Nossi College of Art & Design in Nashville last year, the school’s president confirmed to CNN. A LinkedIn profile says Hale worked as a freelance graphic designer and a part-time grocery shopper.
An online portfolio that appears to show a collection of Hale’s work includes images of professional logos, cartoon animals and an apparent self-portrait. One image included the phrase, “To Be A Kid (forever and ever).”
Hale won “Most Improved” and “Class Participation” awards from Nossi, according to web posts by the college.
A former vice president of the college, Byron Edwards, described Hale to CNN as, “…the sweetest little thing. I’m just shocked. My wife and I have been crying all day about it,” adding that Hale “was really shy and really good.”
Maria Colomy, who taught Hale for two semesters at Nossi and followed Hale on social media in the time since Hale’s graduation, said to CNN that Hale had been sitting in the front row in her class and had become so upset on the first day of class when unable to figure out how to set up a password that Hale was crying. Hale had to leave the classroom.
Hale’s illustration work was “whimsical” and “childlike,” Colomy said, describing the student as “small and quiet.”
Mainstream media has referred to Hale as transgender. Police have told media that Hale was assigned female at birth, but had recently changed their pronouns to “he/him” on a since-deleted Instagram social media account. Hale had also recently posted on Facebook about a friend’s death as well as a request to be referred to by he/him pronouns and the name Aiden, according to CNN. Colomy told CNN that Hale was “suffering” over the death of the girl who was a former teammate in high school.
A former friend of Hale’s who attended The Covenant School with Hale told ABC News Nightline on March 29 that Hale had begun to transition in the past six months after that former teammate died. PGN was unable to confirm this account.
A different friend, Averianna Patton, a former high school basketball teammate of Hale, told CNN on March 28 that Hale reached out to her shortly before Hale began the shooting.
Patton received a series of messages at 9:57 a.m. from Hale. The messages to Patton read, “This is basically a suicide note. I’m planning to die today” and “You’ll probably hear about me on the news after I die … This is my last goodbye” and “One day this will make more sense. I’ve left more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen,” according to screen grabs.
Patton said she sent a screenshot to her own father at 10:08 a.m. who suggested Patton call a suicide prevention help line.
At 10:13 a.mPatton told CNN she called Nashville Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and then called the non-emergency line at 10:14 a.m.
When asked about this account, Chief Drake told CNN that at that point the shooting was already in progress. Police responded to a shots fired call at 10:13 a.m. Monday, and officers had killed Hale by 10:27 a.m.
Drake told CNN the investigation is in its early stages and they are still trying to establish a motive for the crime. He also stressed that this was a “heinous criminal act” committed “by a criminal that took six innocent lives.”
The Nashville shooting is the nation’s 89th shooting in a K-12 school in 2023, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there has been at least one mass shooting nearly every day of 2023 in the U.S. A mass shooting is defined as four or more victims.
President Joe Biden referred to the Nashville shooting as a “sick” act and reiterated his call for Congress to ban assault weapons. “We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren’t turned into prisons,” Biden said.
Republican members of Congress have said that banning assault weapons is a non-starter. Senate Minority Whip John Thune told CNN’s Manu Raju any gun legislation discourse would be “premature.”
Some GOP politicians and conservative commentators have made anti-trans comments about the shooting. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had her Twitter account limited for a week on March 28 for posting inflammatory messages.
The Daily Wire posted several Twitter threads about Hale, including one from Luke Rosiak and another from Matt Walsh. Daily Wire host Michael Knowles had previously called for the “eradication of transgenderism.”
Billionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is a declared Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential nomination, posted a video on Twitter about trans people being mentally unstable. Ramaswamy has previously made anti-gay and anti-trans posts on Twitter and spoke at the CPAC Conference earlier this month.