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Home » Nashville Community Mourns After School Shooting as Police Investigate Shooter

Nashville Community Mourns After School Shooting as Police Investigate Shooter

29 March 2023, Wednesday

As Nashville struggles with the devastating mass shooting that left three 9-year-old children and three adults dead at a Christian school in the city, police have released further information surrounding the 28-year-old shooter.
The incident occurred in just over a quarter of an hour on Monday morning at The Covenant School, with the shooter entering the elementary school after firing shots and claiming the lives of six people. The shooter was fatally shot by responding officers.

Ms Audrey Hale's parents informed police that she had bought and sold a single weapon, as they had believed to be the totality of her firearms. These updates were provided by Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake on Tuesday.
Hale, who was under medical care for emotional issues, lawfully bought seven firearms, including an AR-style rifle, that were stored in his home, according to Drake. The assault on Monday was premeditated, as evidenced by the maps and writing related to it and information that the shooter had investigated a second target in Nashville. Additionally, his childhood friend revealed he had sent her a series of worrying messages right before the incident.

The attack, which left at least one person injured, is the 19th school or university shooting to occur in the year 2023 and it is the deadliest in the US since 21 people were killed during an incident in Uvalde, Texas, in May.
As schoolchildren and teachers were evacuated from The Covenant School in fear Monday, reports circulated that five victims had lost their lives: three children, the head of the school, the custodian, and a substitute teacher.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee declared in a statement, "yesterday, all of Tennessee suffered, but some woke up without their children, children awoke without parents and teachers, and spouses without their partners." He went on to note that he had lost a close family friend in the tragedy.

At approximately 10 a.m. Monday, a childhood friend of the shooter received a troubling message from him via Instagram, saying “I’m planning to die today” and that it would be on the news. Averianna Patton, the recipient of the message and a Nashville radio host, told CNN Tuesday that she and the shooter had been basketball teammates in their youth, though they hadn't spoken in years and she didn't understand the reason for the contact. Patton then contacted a suicide prevention line and the Nashville Davidson County Sheriff’s Office at 10:13 a.m. Coincidentally, this was the same time police in Nashville received a 911 call regarding an active shooter at The Covenant School.

Police revealed writings left behind by the shooter, Patrick Hale, portrayed that his attack was "calculated and planned". According to Police Chief Steve Drake, the attacker had drawn a map of the building, with planned assaults that he was intending for. Chief Drake also said that the shooter was "prepared for confrontation with law enforcement, prepared to do more harm than was actually done".

Although police believed Hale was targeting the school, the students were fired at randomly. Don Aaron, a police spokesman, stated that there is currently no evidence that suggests the shooter was targeting any of the six victims.
The motive of the shooting at The Covenant School remains a mystery; however, police have identified the shooter as a former student at the school, identified as a female but using male pronouns on social media.

Grace Hale had graduated from Nossi College of Art & Design in Nashville the prior year and had been working as a freelance graphic designer and part-time grocery shopper, according to her LinkedIn profile. At an evening news conference, police added that Hale was transgender.
The investigation into the motive of the shooting is ongoing.

Police on Tuesday released body-cam footage of the confrontation between two officers and the shooter who entered a school armed with three firearms. The surveillance video revealed that glass doors had been fired upon from outside to gain entry, after which the perpetrator was seen walking through the corridors with an assault-style weapon.
The first call about the incident was received at 10:13 a.m., and officers arrived at the school by 10:24 a.m., according to the Metro Nashville Police Chief. The officers opened fire after rushing into the school in response to the threat.

The body-worn cameras of officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo recorded footage from the moment Engelbert arrived at the school. He was instructed to use a key to enter the building, where he was met with a wailing alarm. He and the other officers immediately went to several empty classrooms to look for the suspect. When they heard gunfire coming from upstairs, they rushed up to the second floor. Engelbert, armed with an assault-style rifle, fired multiple times at a person near a large window, who then fell to the ground. Outside, there was a woman who had mentioned two children unaccounted for.

At 10:17 a.m. on Tuesday, police received a call about an active shooter at the Santa Fe High School. Upon arriving to the scene, officers found the suspect, 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who had already opened fire.
Shots had already been fired as police entered the school, according to Chief Jeff Aaron of the Santa Fe Police Department. He stated that one officer was able to engage the suspect, and after a brief exchange of gunfire the suspect surrendered.

An officer named John Barnes then confronted the suspect and was shot. He was transported to the hospital but has since been released.
The suspect then began to walk away and came upon a second officer, identified as Oscar Collazo. Collazo then shot the person on the ground four times with a handgun, yelling “Stop moving!” The officers then approached the person, moved a gun away and radioed “Suspect down! Suspect down!”
The shooter was dead at 10:27 a.m., Aaron said.

As a private school operated by a church, there was no school resource officer assigned by the city to guard the school, according to Aaron.
As for the roughly 11-minute gap between when police received the first call of an active shooter and when officers arrived at the school, Chief Aaron stated that “From what I’ve seen, I don’t have a particular problem with it. But we always want to get better. We always want to get there in two or three minutes and so there’s a lot of things that could have happened – traffic was locked down, etc.”

The Covenant School, a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church, expressed a deep sense of sorrow in a statement following the shooting that claimed the lives of three 9-year-old students, Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs, the daughter of lead church pastor Chad Scruggs. Also killed in the tragedy were Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; Katherine Koonce, the 60-year-old head of the school; and Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian, according to police.

"Our community is heartbroken," the school stated. "We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church."
Sissy Goff, a friend of Koonce, went to the reunification center after the shooting and was not able to find her friend. This led her to suspect something was wrong.
"Knowing her, she's so kind and strong and such a voice of reason and just security for people, she would have been there in front handling everything, so I had a feeling," Goff commented.

Cindy Peak, a substitute teacher and close friend of Tennessee First Lady Maria Lee, had been expected to visit the Lees' home for dinner on Monday, according to a video statement from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. Maria awoke on Tuesday without her valued companion.
In addition to Cindy and Maria, another friend, Katherine Koonce, was employed as a teacher at the same school. Governor Lee revealed in his speech that the trio had been linked for decades.

Sadly, several of the families have issued statements acknowledging their loved ones’ passing. According to WSMV, Hill was a father to seven children, and a grandfather to 14. His family indicated that he loved to cook and spend quality time with his relatives.

The family of Evelyn released a proclamation honoring her as “a shining light in this world.” To commemorate those lost in the tragedy, the city of Nashville has organized a vigil that will take place at One Public Square park at 5:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Mayor John Cooper stated that it is “important that we stand together on this dark day for Nashville.” The city has established a fund to help the survivors of the shooting.
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