The Nashville school shooter, Audrey Hale, was reportedly hunting down the pastor she was receiving counselling from but instead killed his daughter when she could not find him.
Hale, 28, had been having private sessions with Pastor Chad Scruggs before she embarked on a shooting spree at the Covenant school, according to former pastor Jim Bachmann.
Pastor Scrugg’s nine-year-old daughter Hallie was shot dead along with two other children and three staff members during the attack.
Mr Bachmann told InsideEdition that Hale “appeared to be searching the school” for Pastor Scruggs.
Mr Scruggs is the lead pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, which is associated with The Covenant School. He had been at a presbytery planning meeting at the time of the attack when he received a phone alert about an active shooter, according to a fellow church leader.
Mr Bachmann speculated that Hale, a former pupil at the private school, would have “left his daughter alone” had she been able to find the father-of-four.
Hale was born as a woman but had recently begun using male pronouns, leading police to speculate she may have been transgender.
Nashville’s police chief has said his officers are investigating if gender was a motive for the shooting, adding that Hale appeared to have a “resentment” towards the school she used to attend.
In 2020, the Presbyterian Church in America spoke of the “sinfulness” of transgender and homosexual desire and conduct.
“I’m hearing he was providing counselling for her, and something didn’t sit right with her, and so she targeted his daughter and perhaps his two sons that attend another private school,” Mr Bachmann told the TV show.
“If she’d found Chad and tried to kill him, maybe she would have left his daughter alone, I don’t know,” he said.
“She (Hallie) was a very normal, happy-go-lucky little girl who liked to play kickball with the boys and her parents were wonderful people.”
A woman who identified herself as Hallie’s aunt, Kara Scruggs Arnold, wrote on Facebook that Hallie was “incredibly smart, feisty enough to keep up with her three brothers and my four boys.”
Authorities identified Hale’s child victims as Hallie, Evelyn Dieckhaus, and William Kinney, all nine years old.
Headmistress Katherine Koonce, 60, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and chef Mike Hill, 61 were also killed in the mass shooting.
Hale left behind a manifesto, which is expected to be released following an FBI investigation.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake said that Hale had been suffering from an “emotional disorder” at the time of the shooting.
Calls for tighter gun controls
Hale has been described as having “high-functioning” autism and police confirmed she was under doctors’ care.
While Republicans have focused the conversation on mental health, Democrats have been reiterating calls for tighter gun controls.
Hundreds of students stormed the Nashville Capitol building on Thursday demanding gun reform in the GOP-controlled state in the wake of the shooting. They are reportedly planning a school walkout next Monday at 10.13am - the time Hale fired her first shot.
First Lady Jill Biden travelled to the Tennessee city to pay her respects to the victims’ families at a vigil.
Her husband, President Joe Biden, has come under criticism for comments made since the attack.
Mr Biden was asked if he agrees with the theory that Christians were specifically targeted. “I have no idea,” he replied.
When told that Republican senator Josh Hawley believes the shooting was a hate crime against Christians, a grinning Mr Biden said: “Well, I probably don’t then,” before adding: “No, I’m joking. I have no idea.”
Mr Hawley, who attends an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, wrote on Twitter: “What a disgrace. There’s nothing remotely funny about hate crimes.”
Nashville authorities on Thursday released 911 calls from teachers reporting an active shooter.
In one, a man tells the dispatcher he is with a group, including several children, who are walking away from the school toward a main road.
When the dispatcher requests a description of the shooter, another adult retrieves the phone, saying: “All I saw was a man holding an assault rifle shooting through the door. It was — he’s currently in the second-grade hallway, upstairs.
“White man. With camouflage. He had a vest on and an assault rifle.”
In another call, a female tells a dispatcher that she can hear gunshots and that she's hiding in an art room closet.
“It sounds like somebody is shooting guns,” the caller says, as children can be heard in the background.