NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Authorities on Tuesday released intense police body camera footage from a deadly shooting rampage at a local Christian school as details emerged about the three students and three staffers who were killed in the carnage.
The Covenant School students who died were all 9 years old, and the staffers were in their 60s. The shooter was killed by police.
Police released more than two minutes of surveillance footage late Monday. On Tuesday, several minutes of body camera video from officers who encountered the shooter were released.
The body camera footage shows officers arriving a the school, announcing “Metro Police” as they enter the school and some of the classrooms, rifles raised.
“It sounds like it’s upstairs,” an officer says as they ascend the steps to the sound of gunfire above. The video ends with the confrontation in an upstairs lobby area, several shots fired the attacker apparently down and officers yelling “get your hand away from the gun.”
The attack was the nation’s 129th mass shooting of 2023, according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks gun violence data. The assault also marks the 89th shooting on K-12 school grounds in 2023 – an average of one every day – according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.
“While I cannot comment on the ongoing nature of the investigation, I’m really impressed with the work that’s being done by law enforcement,” Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk said. “This is the ultimate crime when school children and caregivers are the victims of senseless gun violence.”
‘IT WAS TRULY HORRIFIC’: Nashville mourns after mass shooting
Who were the victims?
Police identified the student victims as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all age 9. The staffers were Katherine Koonce, 60, identified on the Covenant website as “head of school;” substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61; and custodian Mike Hill, 61.
Hallie was the daughter of Chad Scruggs, who is the lead pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, according to a statement from his former church in Dallas.
“We love the Scruggs family and mourn with them over their precious daughter Hallie,” Mark Davis, senior pastor at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, said in a statement. “Together, we trust in the power of Christ to draw near and give us the comfort and hope we desperately need.”
Koonce obtained a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, according to the school website. She earned a master’s in education from Georgia State University in Atlanta and a doctorate from Trevecca University, a Christian school in Nashville.
Peak was raised in Leesville, Louisiana, and attended Leesville High School through her sophomore year in 1977 when her family relocated to Shreveport, KALB-TV in Alexandria, Louisiana, reported. She later graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the station reported.
Tim Dunavant, a pastor at Harstville First United Methodist Church, said Hill was the last employee he hired when Dunavant ran the kitchen at the Covenant church and school more than 13 years ago.
“I have a feeling, when it all comes out, Mike’s sacrifice saved lives,” Dunavant wrote in a Facebook post. “I have nothing factual to base that upon. I just know what kind of guy he was. And I know he’s the kind of guy that would do that. Goodbye Mike, I’m going to miss those encouraging texts out of the blue from you.”
Who was the suspect?
Police identified the attacker as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, a transgender man. Hale, an illustrator and graphic designer, entered the Covenant school with an AR-style rifle, an AR-style pistol and another handgun, police said.
Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake said officers seized written material and a map describing how the assault would unfold, as well as a plan to shoot up a different Nashville school apparently scrapped because of “too much security.’’
“We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we are going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident,” Drake said at an afternoon press conference. “We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.”
Drake told NBC News that Hale might have had “some resentment for having to go to that school.”
Bill Campbell, a headmaster of The Covenant School from 2004 to 2008, told NBC News he remembers Hale as third-grader at the school in 2005 and a fourth-grader in 2006. Hale may have transferred to another school after that, he said.
Police release video of attack
In surveillance footage released by Nashville police late Monday, Hale is seen driving to the school to carry out the shooting. Hale, armed with multiple firearms including an AR-style rifle, shoots the glass doors to enter the building. Hale walks in hallways and aims the assault rifle before the video cuts off. The video, with no audio, is more than two minutes long.
Drake said the department will release body camera video from officers who encountered the shooter.
Nashville shooting suspect killed by police in ‘swift’ response
Nashville police said five officers responded to a 911 call that arrived at 10:13 a.m., and the shooter fired on arriving police vehicles from a second story window .
The officers found the shooter on the second floor of the building that houses the school and a Presbyterian church. The threat was over by 10:27 a.m., police said.
“The police department response was swift,” police spokesman Don Aaron said. “Officers entered the first story of the school and begin clearing it. They heard shots coming from the second level; they immediately went to the gunfire.”
What is the Covenant School in Nashville?
The Covenant School is a private school founded in 2001 that serves students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, according to its website. On a given day, slightly over 200 students and 42 staff members are at the school, Aaron said.
The school is on the campus of Covenant Presbyterian Church in the city’s Green Hills neighborhood, about 9 miles southeast of downtown Nashville. It’s next door to a Nashville Fire Department station and less than a mile south of Nashville’s largest shopping district.
The school’s motto is “Shepherding hearts. Empowering Minds. Celebrating Childhood.”
U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., whose district includes the site of Monday’s mass shooting in Nashville, received widespread criticism from gun control advocates for a Christmas photo he posted in 2021 of his family posing with guns. The photo, which remained on the congressman’s Facebook page as of Monday night, shows his wife and two of his three children smiling and holding firearms in front of a Christmas tree.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS! The Ogles Family,” the post reads, adding in quotes: “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” Read more here.
– Joey Garrison
Contributing: Rachel Wegner, Kirsten Fiscus, Craig Shoup, Nashville Tennessean; Trevor Hughes, Grace Hauck, Jorge L. Ortiz, Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY