A 28-year-old former student’s attack on the Covenant school in Nashville, Tennessee was “calculated and planned,” say police investigators.
Surveillance video released late Monday night showed Audrey Elizabeth Hale — wearing a red backwards cap, a tactical vest, and camouflage pants—shooting through glass doors to enter into the school, and then roaming corridors, seemingly searching for potential victims.
The shooter killed six people: three nine-year-old students, and three school employees in their sixties.
Police body camera video released Tuesday showed officers arriving at the Covenant School, and encountering an employee outside who informs them that almost all the students were locked down but weren’t sure about the whereabouts of two of them.
Warning: The following video is graphic and may be upsetting to some viewers.
The officers are seen making their way through the school, checking empty classrooms as they searched for the shooter. Then they hear gunshots coming from the second floor. They moved quickly towards the sound of gunfire, encountered the shooter in an atrium-like part of the school, and shot them dead within seconds. One officer fired from a rifle, while a second fired from a pistol as they approached the downed shooter.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake said that investigators are still working to confirm a motive in the case, but told NBC that they believe the shooter harbored resentment towards the Covenant School, a private preschool to sixth-grade Christian school that they once attended. Drake said that the shooter was likely targeting the school itself, and that the victims were random.
Writings and a manifesto recovered by investigators suggest that the shooter had planned shootings at “multiple locations” in addition to the school, Drake said. They also recovered a map that indicated the shooter had conducted detailed surveillance of the Covenant School, identified entry points, and extensively plotted how to carry out the shooting. Some of the writings were recovered in the shooter’s car, which was driven to the school on Monday morning. The manifesto has been turned over to the FBI.
The shooter had three firearms, including an AR-style pistol, a handgun, and a semi-automatic rifle, as well as “significant ammunition,” said police. Some of those weapons were “personalized.”
During his interview with NBC, Drake said that investigators weren’t sure if the fact that the shooter identified as transgender played a role in the attack. Drake had initially identified the shooter as a transgender woman, and an unnamed source close to their family told The Daily Beast that the shooter had recently started using he/him pronouns. The shooter’s Linkedin profile said they used he/him pronouns and several social media posts had them using the name “Aiden” (this name was also written on one of their firearms used during the attack). Christian nationalists and far-right personalities have already weaponized this detail and used it to justify their ongoing attacks against the transgender community.
One of the shooter’s former classmates shared some Instagram DMs with NewsChannel5 that she received from the shooter just 15 minutes before the deadly rampage.
The shooter told Averianna Patton, a middle school basketball teammate, that they didn’t want to live anymore and that she would probably hear about it on the news later that day.
“I don’t want to live,” the shooter wrote. “I’m not trying to upset you or get attention. I just need to die.”
“I wanted to tell you first because you are the most beautiful person I have ever seen and known all my life,” the shooter added. “My family doesn’t know what I’m about to do.” Hale also said that “something bad was about to happen.”
The students who were killed have been identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all of whom were nine. Cynthia Peak, 61; Katherine Koonce, 60; and Mike Hill, 61, were also killed.