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Nashville police search for clues in Christian school shooting


As police released CCTV footage of the suspect in the deadly Nashville school shooting, investigators seeking clues to the latest bout of mass gun violence in the U.S. pored over a “manifesto” and other writings uncovered after three children and three adults were shot dead at a Christian school by a 28-year-old former student. Matthew Larotonda reports.

Investigators in Nashville on Tuesday pored over a “manifesto” written by a 28-year-old former student at a Christian school who shot to death three children and three adults a day earlier at the institution, hoping to learn what motivated the latest U.S. mass shooting.

Police killed the perpetrator of Monday’s shooting, identified by authorities as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, when they stormed the Covenant School within minutes of gunfire erupting in the private church-based academy.

“In Nashville, this is our worst day, but it could have been worse without this great response. We are very grateful for that,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said on Tuesday in an interview on CNN, noting that the attack was “clearly planned” by the assailant, based on the manifesto authorities found.

Authorities did not immediately offer a motive for the killings.

Monday’s violence marked the 90th school shooting – defined as any incident in which a gun is discharged on school property – in the United States this year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, a website founded by researcher David Riedman. Last year saw 303 such incidents, the highest of any year in the database, which goes back to 1970.

During a previous press briefing, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Hale self-identified as being transgender, although Drake offered no further clarity. Drake and other officials repeatedly referred to the suspect with female pronouns. Hale used male pronouns on a LinkedIn page that listed recent jobs in graphic design and grocery delivery.

Among various pieces of evidence under examination by police and FBI agents conducting an investigation were some writings by the assailant, including the manifesto and a detailed, hand-drawn map of the school showing various entry points, Drake said.

Drake told NBC the manifesto “indicates there was going to be shootings at multiple locations and that the school was one of them.” He said the Covenant School was singled out for attack but that the individual victims were targeted at random.

Investigators believe Hale harbored “some resentment for having to go to that school” as a child, he said without elaborating.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday noted that President Joe Biden has already taken multiple gun-related actions by executive order but that more needs to be done by lawmakers to enact comprehensive gun safety laws, including a renewed ban on assault weapons.

“We need Republicans in Congress to show some courage,” she told MSNBC in an interview. “Enough, enough, enough.”

Hours after the shooting, Biden urged lawmakers to pass tougher gun reform legislation.

“They need to act. The time is now,” Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

Hale, armed with two assault-style weapons, one of them a rifle, as well as a 9 millimeter pistol, gained entry to the school by shooting through the window of a side door, authorities said.

Surveillance camera video posted online by police shows the suspect, wearing camouflage pants and a black vest over a white T-shirt with a red baseball cap on backwards, blasting through the glass pane of an outer door after driving up to the building in a car. The footage then shows the assailant stalking through a hallway as alarm lights flash.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department began receiving calls about a shooter at 10:13 a.m., and arriving officers reported hearing gunfire coming from the building’s second floor, police spokesperson Don Aaron told reporters.

Two officers from a five-member team shot the assailant in a lobby area, and the suspect was pronounced dead by 10:27 a.m.

“The police department response was swift,” Aaron said.

The three slain school children, all age 9, were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney. Also shot dead were Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian; Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; and Katherine Koonce, 60, listed on the Covenant website as “head of school.”

The Covenant School, founded in 2001, is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in the Green Hills neighborhood of Tennessee’s state capital, with about 200 students, according to the school’s website. The school serves preschool through sixth graders and held an active-shooter training program in 2022, local television station WTVF-TV reported.

Related Galleries:

A still image from surveillance video shows what the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department describe as mass shooting suspect Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, entering The Covenant School carrying weapons in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. March 27, 2023. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Rev. Dawn Bennett, a Pastor at The Table, prays next to Jace Wilder of Nashville during a community vigil held at Belmont United Methodist Church after a deadly shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., March 27, 2023. REUTERS/Austin Anthony

Laura and Nate Dickinson of Nashville attend a community vigil held at Belmont United Methodist Church after a deadly shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., March 27, 2023. REUTERS/Austin Anthony

Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, who is the suspect of deadly mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, is seen in an undated handout image released on March 27, 2023. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Students from the Covenant School hold hands after getting off a bus to meet their parents at the reunification site following a mass shooting at the school in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. March 27, 2023. Mark Zaleski/USA Today Network via REUTERS.
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