Assailant Kills Six At Nashville Elementary School In Latest US Mass Shooting

A man drops flowers to a makeshift memorial where baloons and Teddy bears are left on the outside the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, in Nashville, Tennessee, March 27, 2023. A heavily armed former student killed three young children and three staff in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack at a private elementary school in Nashville on Monday, before being shot dead by police. Chief of Police John Drake named the suspect as Audrey Hale, 28, who the officer later said identified as transgender. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

 

On Monday, a heavily armed former pupil killed three young children and three staff members in what appeared to be a well-planned attack at a Nashville private elementary school before being shot dead by police.

Audrey Hale, 28, was identified as the suspect by Chief of Police John Drake, who left behind a manifesto and maps of the school detailing surveillance and entry-exit points.

The suspect was “prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement,” the police chief told reporters following the latest outburst of gun violence in the United States.

Drake told NBC News that the suspect was most likely planning a larger attack since the manifesto “indicates that there was going to be shootings at numerous locations, and the school was one of them.”

Equipped with at least two assault rifles and a handgun, Hale allegedly entered The Covenant School, a Christian academy, from a side entry, shooting through a door and fired multiple shots as he advanced into the building, according to authorities.

The six victims were identified by police, who stated that one of the three children was eight years old and two were nine years old, while the adults killed were aged 60 to 61.

On the academy’s website, one of the fatalities, Katherine Koonce, is named as the head of the institution.

There was some doubt regarding the shooter’s gender identity at first, but authorities later revealed that Hale was transgender.

Police arrived on the site approximately 15 minutes after receiving the first emergency call at around 10 a.m. (1500 GMT), engaged the shooter, who returned fire before being shot dead, according to police.

Images on television showed students leaving the school holding hands. A child was seen sobbing through the window of her yellow school bus as it drove away from the crime site in one photograph.

Avery Myrick said her mother, a Covenant pre-kindergarten teacher, hid as shots rang out throughout the school.

“She said she was hiding in the closet, and that there was shooting all over and that they had potentially tried to get into her room, and just that she loved us,” Myrick told WSMV4 television, an NBC local affiliate.

On Monday night, as the country digested another mass shooting that claimed the lives of children, people left flowers and stuffed toys at a growing makeshift memorial outside the school. Some kneeled in prayer.

Stacie Wilford, a nurse, said it was “so scary” to have a shooting so close to home. She lives nearby and has an eight-year-old who attends a school only two miles down the road from The Covenant School.

“Whenever you hear about school shootings in other states, yes, you feel it, but when it’s at your back door, it just sets in differently,” Wilford told AFP.

School shootings are alarmingly common in the United States, where the proliferation of firearms has soared in recent years.

President Joe Biden described the latest shooting as “sick” and said gun violence was “ripping the soul of this nation,” as he urged Congress to pass a ban on the assault weapons often used in mass shootings.

– Mass shooting epidemic –

People gather at a makeshift memorial for victims outside the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church following a shooting, in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27, 2023.
(Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

The Covenant School is a private Presbyterian institution with just over 200 students, from preschool to roughly age 12.

The school was founded by and housed in the Covenant Presbyterian Church, part of a theologically conservative denomination, The New York Times reported.

The Times said one of the children who died in the shooting was Hallie Scruggs, the daughter of the church’s pastor, Chad Scruggs.

Police chief Drake said investigators were working on a possible motive but that it was “not confirmed.”

Asked whether Hale’s gender identity may have been a factor, Drake said: “There is some theory to that, we’re investigating all the leads.”

There have been 129 mass shootings — defined as incidents in which four or more people were shot or killed — so far this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

Biden’s calls for Congress to reinstate the national ban on assault rifles, which existed from 1994 to 2004, have run up against opposition from Republicans, who are staunch defenders of the constitutional right to bear arms and have had a narrow majority in the House of Representatives since January.

The deadlock in Washington has come despite the public uproar over high-profile massacres such as the one at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, when 26 people, including 20 children, were killed.

The 2018 murder of 14 students and three staff members in Parkland, Florida fueled a nationwide movement, led by young people, to demand stricter gun controls — but failed to spur significant action in Congress.

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