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Nashville police response ‘nothing short of heroic’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NewsNation) — Fourteen minutes. That’s how long it took for Metropolitan Nashville Police Department officers to respond to and neutralize the Covenant school shooting suspect Monday.

There was not a school resource officer on-site at the time of the shooting, yet a five-officer unit with MNPD rushed to the scene, handling the incident within 14 minutes.

For those locked down in the school for that long, it probably felt like 14 hours, attorney and former FBI Special Agent Stuart Kaplan said. But he emphasized that the reality of the situation is that law enforcement responded as quickly as they possibly could.

“I think law enforcement in connection with this particular shooting did a miraculous job. The people that went into that building certainly rose to the level of being heroes. My hat’s off to them,” Kaplan said. “But the reality is that law enforcement cannot be solely responsible for trying to neutralize these types of individuals that sit in their homes in isolation, and that are just the ticking time bomb.”

The first reports of an active shooter at The Covenant School in Nashville came in at 10:13 a.m. Monday and police said the suspect was shot at 10:27 a.m.

It took MNPD officer Rex Engelbert, a 4-year veteran, three minutes and 20 seconds from the time he arrived at the private elementary school until he took the first shot at the suspect, according to the police bodycam footage.

MNPD officer Michael Collazo, a 9-year veteran, followed in shortly after Engelbert’s initial shot, ensuring the threat was neutralized.

“As soon as the 911 calls went out, obviously these officers had to stage up — meaning to put on the necessary equipment, got the necessary tools and assets. And then as you can imagine, methodically make entry and move toward that gunfire. And they did exactly what they were trained to do,” he explained.

From the moment the officers arrived, bodycam footage showed them quickly gearing up, analyzing the situation and clearing the halls, urgently moving the team through the search for the suspect.

Once there was no longer a threat to the public, law enforcement began their investigation into the shooting, collecting evidence on the school’s grounds and at the suspect’s residence.

Nashville Fire Department medics responded and transported three children and two adults to area hospitals after assessing “viable signs of life.” Three children and three adults were killed in the shooting. One officer’s hand was wounded by cut glass during the response.

The MNPD’s response to the Covenant School shooting was a stark contrast to the 77 minutes it took for officers to neutralize the active shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, who took the lives of 19 students and two teachers.

Footage from the Uvalde shooting showed heavily armed and armored officers standing in a hallway outside of the classroom for nearly an hour before they entered the unlocked classroom to take out the shooter.

Nashville police identified the victims — only after the families were notified — as 9-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9-year-old Hallie Scruggs, 9-year-old William Kinney, 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, and 61-year-old Mike Hill.

Even though the officers neutralized the threat within 14 minutes, Kaplan said it’s important to remember that the officers’ lives will also be changed forever.

Tracy Walder’s first reaction after seeing the police bodycam footage was the thought that those kids and faculty that survived had to go through hearing those gunshots, and that they would have to live with that horror for the rest of their lives.

However, Walder, a former CIA officer and FBI special agent, said the law enforcement response was nothing short of heroic.

“They clearly had school shooting preparedness and situational awareness to be able to do that. But we have to remember that these sounds are going to live with these kids forever,” she said.

Walder, who has a daughter about the same age as some of the victims, said she couldn’t imagine what her daughter would think after seeing and hearing something like this.

Wiping a tear from her face during an interview on “NewsNation Live,” Walder said she always tries to put on a stern face given her experience serving the nation, but she questioned why they still have to have this conversation.

“I just don’t feel that I should have to worry about my daughter coming home in a body bag,” she said.

“I have to say those law enforcement officers I do want to add are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing: running towards the threat, making dynamic entry into those classrooms, to engage the threat and eradicate that threat. And that is precisely what they should be doing,” Walder said. “They’re methodically going through clearing those rooms, room by room, and really, their training is excellent. And they are heroes and they are putting themselves right in front of danger. And I do think, unfortunately, we lost six people, but I do think what they did ultimately saved lives and they did an excellent job.”

Walder analyzed the evidence law enforcement has collected so far, explaining that investigators discovered the suspect had maps of the school and campus as well as other shotguns and other weapons at home.

Investigators also discovered a manifesto, which police have not yet released to the public.

Kaplan said the next steps in the investigation will be to connect the dots and try to create a roadmap that law enforcement can use to try and neutralize the next threat.

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