Six killed by 28-year-old ex-student in Tennessee

Six people – three children and three staff – have been killed in a shooting by an ex-student at a school in the US city of Nashville, Tennessee.

Three of the victims were pupils aged nine or under at Covenant School. Police named them as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney.

The adult victims were named as Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61.

The private Christian school has about 200 students.

It teaches pupils from three years old up to around 12.

Ms Peak was a substitute teacher working at the school that day. Mr Hill was a janitor and Ms Koonce was described as the Head of School on Covenant’s website.

Police said the suspect was 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who was identified as transgender.

Hale was armed with three guns, including a semi-automatic rifle, and was shot dead by police.

Police received the first call about the incident at 10:13 local time (15:13 GMT) on Monday.

The suspect drove to the school in a Honda Fit and got in by firing through one of the school doors, which were all locked.

Video later released by Nashville police show Hale using a gun to gain entry by shattering glass panes on the front doors, then wandering the school’s deserted corridors – at one point walking past a room labeled “Children’s Ministry”.

In the CCTV footage, Hale is wearing what looks to be a protective vest and carrying an assault-style rifle in one hand, with a second, similar weapon also visible hanging from the left hip.

Hale fired shots on the ground floor before moving to the building’s second floor.

As police cars arrived, Hale fired on them from the second floor, striking one in the windscreen, said police.

One officer was injured by broken glass. The police rushed inside and shot the suspect dead at 10:27 a.m.

A search of a nearby parked car led officers to “firmly believe” that Hale was a former student of the school, police said.

The police spoke with the attacker’s father during a search of a nearby home that was listed as the shooter’s address.

Nashville Police Chief John Drake said investigators there found a manifesto and “a map of how all of this was going to play out”, including entry and exit points at the school building.

He also said the shooter had conducted surveillance while planning the attack.

After the shooting, parents gathered at a nearby church to reunite with their children. As buses of children arrive, they hang their heads and hands out of the windows to wave to their parents, according to the Tennessean newspaper.

A growing memorial outside the school

A growing memorial outside the school

The Presbyterian-affiliated Covenant School is located in the upmarket Green Hills neighborhood, just south of downtown Nashville.

The mother of one pupil said her son had been left traumatized by the shooting.

“I think he’s doing better now that he knows that the shooter is dead,” Shaundelle Brooks told BBC News.

“These are conversations we shouldn’t be having,” she added. “We’re failing our children.”

By nightfall on Monday, the entrance to the Covenant looks like that of any other church that has a school, except for the growing memorial and police presence.

There was a sign outside promoting registration for a summer program and the Easter Sunday service schedule.

“When I heard it I couldn’t get any more work done. I was sad and angry,” says Mark from south Nashville.

“Bringing flowers is my way of paying respects to the lives lost.”

Mark and Barbara at the church

Mark and Barbara at the church

In a statement, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the city had “joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting”.

President Joe Biden called the shooting a “family’s worst nightmare”.

“We have to do more to stop gun violence,” he said, once again calling on Congress to pass gun control laws. “It is ripping our communities apart, and ripping at the very soul of this nation.”

The attack was America’s 129th mass shooting of 2023, according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun violence data.

According to data compiled by Education Week, there have been 12 school shootings that have resulted in deaths or injuries in the US this year until the end of last week.

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