Authorities identified the three young children and three adults who were shot to death at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday ― a tragedy the city’s police chief said he hoped “would never, ever come here in the city.”
The student victims at The Covenant School were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney ― two of whom were 9 years old and one was about to turn 9. The three adults killed were 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, the 60-year-old head of school Katherine Koonce and 61-year-old custodian Mike Hill.
“When we send our kids to school or to any place of safety, we expect them to live, learn, have fun and come back from that day’s experience. We don’t anticipate things like this,” John Drake, chief of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department, said at the third press briefing of the day.
Authorities identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who was killed by officers at the scene. Police believe Hale was a former student of the school and said she was in possession of three weapons when she was killed: a rifle, an assault rifle-style pistol and a handgun. Police think that two of the three weapons were obtained legally in the Nashville area and that she has “no history at all” of past criminal activities, Drake said.
Police are investigating a “manifesto” they found at Hale’s house that includes a “map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.” There is no confirmed motive, Drake said, but police have a “theory that we may be able to talk about later.”
Authorities also plan to eventually release a video showing how the five officers who responded to the scene killed Hale, whom they believe gained access to the school by shooting through a door to the building.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who also spoke at the latest press conference, denounced the frequency of gun violence.
“The leading cause of kids’ death now is guns and gunfire, and that is unacceptable,” Cooper said. After decades of automobile accidents being the top killer of children in the U.S., the New England Journal of Medicine published findings last year that firearm fatalities were now the top cause.
“Guns are quick; they don’t give you much time,” Cooper added. “So even in a remarkably fast response, there was not enough time. And those guns stole precious lives from us today in Nashville.”
Tennessee has some of the weakest state gun laws in the country and lacks many of the safeguards wanted by gun reform advocates, including universal background checks, waiting periods for firearm purchases and assault weapon restrictions.