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Shooting at Tennessee school was plotted

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-03-28 10:48

Children run past an ambulance near the Covenant School after a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, US March 27, 2023 in a still image from video. [Photo/Agencies]

A female shooter who shot and killed three children and three adults Monday at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, before being killed by police had plotted the attack, police said.

Audrey Elizabeth Hale, the 28-year-old suspect, opened fire at The Covenant School, a private Presbyterian elementary school in the city's affluent Green Hills section, according to Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake.

Police said that it was a "targeted attack" by Hale, a graphic designer who identified as transgender and lived in the Nashville area. She also was a former student at the school, Drake said.

The police chief said at an evening news briefing that they were investigating one of Hale's addresses and had interviewed her father.

Two of the weapons that were used were obtained legally in Nashville.

"We know there were two AR-style weapons," Drake said. "One a rifle, another was an AR-style pistol and the other was a handgun."

Hale entered the building by shooting through a side door and then opening fire on the second floor. She had "multiple rounds of ammunition" and was prepared to confront law enforcement.

Drake said: "We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we're going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident. We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place."

He said that Hale had conducted surveillance before the shooting and added that a "car nearby gave us clues" into who she was.

Police are now reviewing video recorded at the school and will release it in the next few days.

"In a tragic morning, Nashville joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting," Mayor John Cooper wrote on Twitter.

One responding police officer had a wound from cut glass. Police were first informed that there was an active shooter at 10:13 am. Hale's rampage lasted approximately 14 minutes.

Five officers quickly arrived at the school and searched the first floor; they then heard gunshots from the second floor.

Two of the police officers located the shooter and shot her dead at 10:27 am in a gunfight, said Dan Aaron, a police spokesman. He said there were no police officers present or assigned to the school at the time of the shooting because it is church run.

All of the victims were identified, and their families notified of their deaths. They were pronounced dead at the Monroe Carell Junior Children's Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The children killed were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. Two of them were 9 years old, and the other was 8.

The three adults killed in the shooting were identified as Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; Katherine Koonce, 60; and Mike Hill, 61, a custodian.

The Covenant School, founded in 2001, has approximately 200 students from preschool to sixth grade, according to its website, which listed Koonce as head of the school. It has 50 staff members.

Drake said at the briefing: "I was literally moved to tears to see this and the kids as they were being ushered out of the building."

Jozen Reodica heard the police sirens and fire trucks blaring from outside her office building nearby.

"I thought I would just see this on TV," she said. "And right now, it's real."

President Joe Biden addressed the shooting at a women's business event at the White House on Monday.

Describing it as "sick" and "a family's worst nightmare", Biden said mass shootings were "ripping at the very soul of this nation".

He added: "We must do more to stop gun violence."

Biden implored Congress to pass a ban on semiautomatic guns. Last year, the first major piece of gun reform legislation passed since 1994, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, was approved by the Senate. However, it did not ban assault weapons.

First lady Jill Biden, speaking at the National League of Cities conference in Washington DC on Monday, told the audience: "We just learned about another shooting in Tennessee — a school shooting. I am truly without words. Our children deserve better. We stand with Nashville in prayer."

It is highly unusual that the shooter was a woman, as most mass shooters tend to be male, Rob Boyce, a former NYPD chief told ABC news.

Since 1966, only five US mass shootings have been carried out by women, according to The Violence Project, a research center in St. Paul, Minnesota, which records mass shootings.

The shooting in Nashville is the 129th mass shooting in the US this year, data from the Gun Violence Archive shows.

There have been seven mass killings at K-12 schools since 2006 in which four or more people were killed within a 24-hour period, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.

The database does not include school shootings in which fewer than four people were killed, which have become far more common in recent years. Last week, school shootings occurred in Denver and the Dallas area within two days of each other.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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