Nashville police believe school shooter suspects gender identity may play into motive
United States
United States

Nashville police believe school shooter suspects gender identity may play into motive

According to authorities, on Monday (local time), 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who identifies as transgender and was armed with multiple firearms carried out a shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, that Hale previously attended. The attack resulted in the deaths of three children and three adult staff members. The perpetrator was subsequently killed by police.

There was no immediate official word on a possible motive for the gun violence, which unfolded on a warm spring morning not long after classes began at The Covenant School, whose students consist mostly of elementary school-age children.

Police stated that the perpetrator was in possession of at least two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun reported to be obtained legally and locally.

According to police spokesperson Don Aaron, at 10:13 am, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department received numerous calls about a shooter at the school. Upon arriving, officers reported hearing gunshots emanating from the second floor of the building.

Two officers from a five-member team shot the assailant in a lobby area, Hale was pronounced dead by 10:27 am.

"The police department's response was swift," Aaron said. 

Police Chief John Drake later described the suspect as a 28-year-old woman from the Nashville area who "at one point was a student at this school." But Hale's identity was not immediately made public.

"We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we're going over that pertain to this date," said Drake at a press conference. "We have a map drawn out of how this was all gonna take place."

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

"We believe two of those may have been obtained legally, locally here.

"From our investigation tells us she was a former student at the school.

"She does identify as transgender."

Drake said "there is some theory' to believe how Hale identifies may have influenced their motive for targeting the school.

He said it was a targeted attack.

"We don't know any history of mental illness at this time".

In response to the shooting incident in Washington, President Joe Biden once again called on Congress to pass additional gun control measures.

"It's sick," he said, addressing the issue during an event at the White House. "We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren't turned into prisons... I call on Congress again to pass my assault weapons ban."

John Howser, a spokesperson for Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, released a statement indicating that three students were pronounced dead after being transported to the hospital with gunshot injuries. Additionally, three adult staff members were killed in the shooting, according to the police.

Besides the deceased, no one else was shot, Aaron said.

Parents were instructed to convene at the nearby Woodmont Baptist Church to reunite with their children, and subsequently, parents began to trickle out of the building with their children in tow. A visibly upset woman was escorted alone by police officers out of the church and to a waiting squad car.

The Covenant School, which has approximately 200 students and caters to preschool through sixth-grade students, is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville's Green Hills neighbourhood, as per the school's website. WTVF-TV reported that in 2022, the school conducted an active shooter training program.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper expressed sympathy for the victims and wrote on social media that his city "joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting."

According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, a website founded by researcher David Riedman, there have been 89 school shootings in the US so far in 2023. The database defines a school shooting as an incident in which a gun is discharged on school premises. The website's data, which dates back to 1970, indicates that 2022 saw the highest number of school shootings at 303.