Moments before Audrey Hale entered the Covenant School in Nashville and killed six people, including three children, the former Covenant student sent Instagram messages to a former middle school basketball teammate.
“I’m planning to die today,” Hale wrote to Averianna Patton, a fellow member of the 2008-2009 Isaiah T. Creswell middle school girls basketball team. “You’ll probably hear about me on the news after I die.”
Hale, who police said was transgender and recently began using male pronouns, seemed to cherish the time playing middle school basketball at the Nashville arts magnet school. A shy girl at the time, Hale’s more athletic teammates said they embraced Hale and tried to make her feel like a part of their hardwood family. Hale is now the third member of that team to die in the past eight months. All were younger than 30 years old.
Hale never seemed to forget the kindness extended by those teammates. But Hale's focus on the team and former teammates resulted in awkward and strange interactions with those teammates in recent years. One teammate described Hale's preoccupation with her and the team as “obsessive” and “stalkerish.”
Two of Hale’s former teammates were recently killed in car accidents. Sidney Sims was 27 when she died from injuries suffered in a two-car crash in Nashville in August. Marque Lichelle Hamilton was 29 when she died at the scene of a crash on I-65 in Nashville in February.
Audrey Hale left 'manifesto'
On Monday, Hale became the third member of that team to die in the past year. Police shot Hale after the Nossi College of Art graduate shot six people, including students Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, Hallie Scruggs, 9, and William Kinney 9, as well as head of school Katherine Koonce, 60, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and custodian Mike Hill, 61.
Hale left behind a “manifesto” and had studied the school and its entrance points, according to police. Hale was getting treatment for an unspecified “emotional disorder,” said Metro Police Chief John Drake. The shooter's parents thought Hale had recently sold his only gun, but Hale had in fact legally purchased seven firearms from five different local gun shops, Drake said.
'I want to go home': Nashville shooting 911 calls capture terror inside Covenant School
Hale played middle school girls basketball as a shy, small kid at a school where everyone made the team, remembered Antoine Buchanan, a former head coach at Creswell who coached Hale. Buchanan is now the head varsity girl’s basketball coach at Antioch High School.
In Hale’s eighth-grade year, the team was an immensely talented group that made it to the final four of the city tournament despite representing a magnet school for the arts, Buchanan said.
Some teammates remembered Hale as being a player who gave maximum effort, but Buchanan remembered a bench warmer.
“She would have played if we were really winning or really losing,” Buchanan said.
Patton, who called the police after receiving the final messages from Hale on Monday, remembers a close-knit team.
"Audrey was super timid when we first met her," said Patton, who was a year ahead of Hale in school. "We had real camaraderie. As far as on the court, we were like a family."
Mia Phillips, 28, was on the Creswell team with Hale and in the same grade.
“We felt she was shy,” Phillips said. “So we embraced her and really befriended her.”
After middle school, Phillips and Hale attended different high schools: Phillips went to the University School of Nashville and Hale went to the Nashville School of the Arts.
Running track at MLK high
Despite not playing much on that middle school basketball team, Hale was part of a state-champion girls 4x400 meter relay track team for Martin Luther King Jr. High School in 2013. (Because Nashville School of the Arts doesn’t have a track team, students there can try out for the MLK team). Hale was even named “most athletic” in the Nashville School of the Arts yearbook.
At a different high school, Phillips drifted apart from Hale. But over the years Hale would reach out to her on social media, often referencing their time together in middle school. It was mostly sweet, Phillips said, but sometimes it was unnerving.
Inside the school: Police release body camera, surveillance footage of Covenant School shooting
When Phillips arrived at Middle Tennessee State University and set up her email for the very first time, she was surprised to find that there was already an email from Hale waiting for her. Phillips also occasionally received memorabilia from Hale connected to their time on the Creswell team together. Patton had no idea how Hale knew her address.
“I’m trying to be as respectful and also as honest as possible,” Phillips said. “It felt obsessive. It felt like stalkerish behavior.”
Hale’s behavior never escalated to the point where Phillips felt the need to contact authorities. But recent interactions left people confused and uncomfortable, Phillips said.
In February 2022, Hale came uninvited to a birthday party at Ponobe’s Bar and Restaurant in Goodlettsville that was attended by some members of that middle school team, Phillips said. Hale did not seem to be using male pronouns at the time, Phillips said. (Phillips declined to name the other people at the party).
What we know: A timeline of Covenant School shooting in Nashville
Phillips arrived after Hale and noticed her former teammate acting visibly drunk, stumbling and slurring words. But the other people at the party said that Hale hadn’t had anything to drink. Everyone believed Hale was pretending to be drunk at a party she hadn’t been invited to, Phillips said.
Phillips hadn’t seen Hale in person for many years, she said. But remembering Hale’s mother from their middle school playing days, Phillips tried to get Hale's phone so she could contact Hale's family and get Hale home safely. But Hale refused. The other people at the party weren’t sure what to do for Hale.
“Everybody was confused,” Phillips said. “It was just rubbing us in a weird way of like, giving us a really negative feeling. It didn't feel right.”
After Hale refused all help getting home, Phillips left. But she soon started getting social media messages from Hale, begging her to come back. The messages were clear and grammatically correct, however, hardly the kind of messages sent by someone as inebriated as Hale had been acting.
Phillips saw Hale later in 2022 at the celebration of life for their former teammate Sidney Sims, who died in an August car crash in Nashville. She remembers Hale following her to her car to continue to hang out.
“I was expressing to her that it was not the time or the place, that we were all grieving,” Phillips said.
In a private Instagram post shared with The Tennessean, Sims’ sister Taylor described how she and her sister had not had any contact with Hale for years until Hale attended Sims’ funeral. But then Hale showed up uninvited at another family event.
“She then popped up uninvited to my sisters [sic] painting that my mom held a few weeks ago (Odd) and still don’t know how she found out,” she wrote.
A former classmate at Nashville School of the Arts remembered Hale would often play basketball in the gym after school, although it doesn’t appear she played on any school team after middle school.
The classmate, who declined to be named, said that at Hale’s senior art show, there were colored pencil drawings of the girls on the basketball team.
Hale ended a final Instagram post, which Hale subsequently told Patton was a “suicide note” in a direct message, with a series of five emojis. One of them was a basketball.
Cassandra Stephenson contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: New details emerge on Nashville shooter Audrey Hale's ‘obsessive’ behavior