Nashville school shooting updates: Suspect messaged friend from Covenant School parking lot

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Three children and three adult staff members were slain at a Nashville school Monday in one of Tennessee's deadliest school shootings. The suspected shooter, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, was fatally shot by officers who responded to the scene at The Covenant School.

Emergency vehicles and helicopters swarmed the Green Hills neighborhood, which is home to several schools, a string of businesses and residential neighborhoods. In the chaotic hours after the shooting, scores of parents gathered at Woodmont Baptist Church to reunite with their children. For some, that moment never came.

Several vigils were held Monday night across Nashville in honor of the victims and their families.

Video footage released late Monday shows the first moments of the shooting. Hale pulls into the parking lot at the school, approaches a door shooting out the glass and then patrols the halls with gun raised.

Follow along in Wednesday's new blog for live updates as we learn more.

THE LATEST: What we know about Covenant School shooting in Nashville

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Hundreds attend Mt. Juliet vigil for Covenant, Nashville

The Tuesday night prayer vigil in Mt. Juliet began with a lone bagpipe player standing in front of the clock tower.

For an hour, city leaders, including Mayor James Maness, Police Chief James Hambrick and several church pastors, prayed and offered their condolences to The Covenant School and the entire Nashville community.

A couple hundred people attended the vigil. They huddled together in groups with bowed heads and joined together in prayer.

At one point, teachers were asked to raise their hands, and others placed their hands on them and prayed over them.

Gov. Bill Lee's wife 'best friends' with one of the victims

On Monday night, Tennessee's first lady Maria Lee was set to have dinner with one of her best friends, Cindy Peak, an old colleague from her teacher days who planned to spend the day as a substitute teacher at The Covenant School.

But Peak never arrived home on Monday. The 61-year-old was one of six victims slain in one of the deadliest school shootings in Tennessee history.

"What happened at Covenant School was a tragedy beyond comprehension," Gov. Bill Lee said in a recorded address Tuesday night, his first extended comments on the shooting.

"Like many of you, I’ve experienced tragedy in my own life, and I’ve experienced the day after that tragedy. I woke up this morning with a very familiar feeling, and I recognize that today many Tennesseans are feeling the exact same way — the emptiness, the lack of understanding, the desperate desire for answers and the desperate need for hope.

Hillsboro HS student describes how Monday's events unfolded, two miles away from the scene

Hillsboro High School junior Alayna Mitchell was in class on Monday when Monday's shooting took place at Covenant School.

Mitchell watched out of her classroom window as police and emergency vehicles raced past her school and to the scene, about two miles down the road off Hillsboro Pike.

"There’s no way to describe the feeling of seeing that many police cars except surreal," Mitchell said at Tuesday's Metro Schools Board of Education meeting.

Mitchell, a student board member, urged lawmakers and other government officials for action.

"Keeping children safe is not political," she said. "If you have the power to make change and instead sit back and remain complicit, do better."

GoFundMe fundraiser for Covenant School custodian killed in shooting surpasses $150,000

A verified GoFundMe fundraiser to support the family of Mike Hill, The Covenant School custodian who was killed in Monday's shooting, has surpassed $150,000 in money raised, according to the website as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"Mike was the beloved father of eight children. More notably, he was "Big Mike" to his students, who will surely feel his loss in the years to come," Anne Puricelli, the page organizer, wrote on the fundraiser page. "Per his family, he took great pleasure and found tremendous joy in his job and through those students."

More than 3,000 donations had been made as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. Three other verified funds are also available for support relief on GoFundMe's website.

'OUR COMMUNITY IS HEARTBROKEN': Covenant School community seeks prayer in wake of deadly mass shooting

Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins wear Covenant School helmet decal in Tuesday's game

Players from the Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins are wearing a Covenant School emblem on their helmets during Tuesday's game in Boston in support of those at the school affected by the shooting.

The Predators released a statement earlier Tuesday, saying, "As Middle Tennessee grieves today, we move forward with heavy hearts in preparation for our game against the Boston Bruins this evening. We will do our best to be mindful and respectful of the more important things in society today, continuing to pray for the shooting victims, their families and the entire Covenant School family, our hearts filled with love and hope for everyone affected."

Metro Nashville schools director: 'We are one Nashville'

Adrienne Battle, the director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, opened a Tuesday night school board meeting by sharing a few thoughts about the shooting.

"My heart aches," she said. "In this moment, we remember that we are one Nashville, regardless of our school affiliation."

Battle praised the emergency response to the shooting and acknowledged the deep grief it's brought on for those affected. She encouraged people to seek help or support if they need it, and to extend it to others.

"It is not natural that we are forced into these conversations," Battle said. "We will continue to confront our grief. We will also recognize that there is so much good in this world and in each other."

Shooter messaged former middle school basketball teammate in Covenant School parking lot before Nashville shooting

Audrey Hale sent direct messages from The Covenant School parking lot to a former middle school basketball teammate minutes before Monday's shooting.

Averianna Patton told The Tennessean on Tuesday that she received messages from Hale at 9:57 a.m. while on Covenant School property, apologizing and stating that Hale wanted to die. Hale also said in the messages to Patton that a March 13 Instagram post was actually a suicide note.

"Something in me was like, 'No, you need to help. Do something,'" Patton said.

Patton called the Suicide Prevention Helpline minutes after reading the messages. The helpline recommended that Patton call police, which she did. By that time, unbeknownst to Patton, Hale had shattered glass doors and entered the Covenant School.

Read more about the messages here.

Nearby fire station with Covenant School connection copes after responding to school shooting

Nashville Fire Department Station 20, a station that responded to the shooting, has 14 Thanksgiving Day cards in the station's windows that personnel said were brought last fall by Covenant School students, who often brought snacks and different treats.

The personnel who were on duty at Station 20 on Monday were not on duty for the following 48 hours, Nashville Fire Department spokesman Joseph Pleasant said. Station 20 is the closest fire station to the school.

“We are also making sure to address any emotional issues our personnel may be facing,” Pleasant said.

Biden pleads for gun reform day after Nashville school shooting

President Joe Biden spoke with reporters Tuesday and again pleaded for Congress to act on gun reform, one day after three children and three adults were killed in a school shooting in Nashville.

"I have done the full extent of my executive authority, to do anything about guns," he said. "I can't do anything except plead with Congress to act reasonably."

Biden said he has already spoken to several officials including Tennessee's two U.S. Senators, Mayor John Cooper, and MNPD chief John Drake.

"I've seen too many of these myself," Biden said.

HOW TO HELP: How to help those affected by the Covenant School shooting in Nashville

Metro police have recovered Audrey Hale's cell phone

Police have recovered Hale's cell phone and will conduct analysis, Metro Police spokesperson Don Aaron said Tuesday.

Hale's social media content will also be analyzed.

Police recovered a manifesto at Hale's residence on Monday following the shooting that included "some writings" and a map of the attack and possible other targets, police said.

Vanderbilt baseball donating ticket proceeds from Tuesday's game to support impacted

Vanderbilt baseball is donating ticket proceeds from Tuesday's game against Lipscomb to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee benefitting The Covenant School and supporting those affected by Monday's shooting.

The ticket donations will be going to the Caring for Covenant Fund, the school announced.

First pitch is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hawkins Field, and tickets are $5.

VANDY: What Vanderbilt's Clark Lea said about Nashville Covenant School shooting

MNPD chief 'impressed' by urgent response of officers at scene of shooting

Neither of the two officers who fired on the shooter, Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo, had been in a similar situation, MNPD chief John Drake said Tuesday.

Drake praised the response time of responding officers during Monday's shooting, saying that by the time he arrived, officers were “coming out bloody” and assisting survivors.

'Above and beyond':Nashville police moved fast, saved lives in Covenant shooting, experts say

“I was really impressed that with all that was going on, someone took control and said ‘Lets go, lets go.’,” Drake said at Tuesday's briefing.

Drake said the officers were trying to decompress the day after the shooting. Drake spoke to President Joe Biden, who was planning to reach out to the responding officers this week.

Officer Rex Engelbert and Officer Michael Collazo, the Metro Nashville Police Department officers credited with taking down the shooter in the Covenant School shooting Monday, March 27, 2023
Officer Rex Engelbert and Officer Michael Collazo, the Metro Nashville Police Department officers credited with taking down the shooter in the Covenant School shooting Monday, March 27, 2023

Audrey Hale was being treated for 'emotional disorder' before Monday's shooting

Following extensive interviews with the parents of Audrey Hale, Metro Police were able to determine that Hale was “under doctor care for an emotional disorder,” and Hale's parents believed Hale did not have any firearms at the time of the shooting, Drake said Tuesday.

Drake confirmed that law enforcement were previously unaware of Hale or about his treatment. Drake said that had it been reported to police that Hale was suicidal, MNPD would have intervened.

Police also confirmed that there is “no motive” at this time—the previously found manifesto in Hale’s vehicle on scene had “talks about the school, a map, a drawing of entry points and assaults that would take place.”

Drake added that no specific student or faculty member was targeted in the attack. According to Drake, Hale appeared to have “some training to shoot from a higher level,” and knew to stand “away from the glass so (he) wouldn’t be an easy target.”

'A WAKE UP CALL': Channel 4 reporter 'immediately was taken back' to school shooting she witnessed in 2010

Nashville police chief: Shooter legally purchased 7 guns, used 3 during shooting

Audrey Hale legally bought seven weapons from five different gun stores, three of which were used yesterday during Monday's shooting, Metro police chief John Drake said during a Tuesday press briefing.

Drake said that Hale suffered from some type of emotional disorder although it is unknown exactly what. Hale's parents believed that due to Hale's emotional state, Hale should not have owned weapons.

Candlelight vigil set for Wednesday evening at Public Square Park

A candlelight vigil will be held Wednesday night at Public Square Park to honor the victims of Monday's shooting.

The vigil will start at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at 1 Public Square Park in Nashville.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper, MNPD chief John Drake, Metro Council member Russ Pulley and State Rep. Rev. Harold Love Jr. will speak at the event.

Nashville police chief: Shooter planned other targets, including a mall

In an interview with CBS Mornings on Tuesday, Metro Nashville police chief John Drake said there were other targets, including a mall, outlined in materials obtained at Hale's residence following Monday's shooting.

"We think (Monday's shooting) was targeted and planned," Drake said.

"… We strongly believe there were going to be other targets, including maybe family members and one of the malls here in Nashville."

Drake said that Hale, who attended Covenant School, had "some history" with the school which may have played a role in the motive for Monday's shooting.

"What detectives have said so far is there is possibly some resentment for having to go to that school. There's a connection with that family."

How school shooting survivors cope in the following days

Having responded to mass shooting at Virginia Tech, Orlando’s Pulse Night Club and the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Jeff Gorter, vice president of clinical crisis response with R3 Continuum, said finding a return to routine is a great coping mechanism strategy for adults.

“We will respond with resilience to these events, but we are called to be a little more intentional and specific in how we cope with them,” Gorter said.

For young children, Gorter said they will have powerful reactions to trauma.

“It’s important they attend to the basic comfort need, be present with their children.”

Scenes from the Covenant School, the day after the shooting

Around 9 a.m. Tuesday, a makeshift memorial was set up at the main drive that leads to Covenant School, which was otherwise blocked off by police. Media tents lining the sidewalk across the street stretch for blocks. A set of flags at an office building down the road flew at half mast.

A few people trickled in to lay flowers against the stone wall where the memorial was set up. Balloons, stuffed animals, notes and candles also lined the wall. One woman dropped to her knees as she laid a bouquet of flowers down, burying her head in her hands and wiping tears from her eyes.

The scene was muted Tuesday morning, especially compared to the swarm of emergency vehicles and helicopters that descended upon the school just after 10 a.m. the day before. A steady stream of traffic continued to roll down Burton Hills Boulevard under overcast skies.

How Woodmont Baptist Church sprung into action

At the same time staff at Woodmont Baptist Church saw the news of the shooting, they learned they were going to also serve as the reunification site.

"As Christians I think we’re always ready to help play our part in bringing back that which has been not unified to unification," Pastor Nathan Parker told The Tennessean. "That reunification work is really gospel work that we were honored to be a part of God’s plan in that moment."

Staff began ushering parents, the earliest of whom arrived about 11 a.m., to the sanctuary where they gave their information and student's information to officials. Church staff passed out water, directed parents to the bathrooms and took out the trash.

"I never saw any of our staff sit down," Parker said. "I couldn’t be prouder of their character in that moment.”

Experts: Nashville police moved fast, saved lives

Police response to mass casualty incidents are increasingly under scrutiny after a shooter killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas while officers stood outside. A top Texas law enforcement official later said there were enough armed police officers wearing body armor to halt the shooting three minutes after it began.

Nashville was different.

Todd McGhee, a 24-year veteran with the Massachusetts State Police, said MNPD's response is a prime example of how a swift response can save lives.

"I would say that under extreme circumstances, they went above and beyond," said McGhee, who trains defense tactics and gun safety. "Those first responding officers were the model response in how active shooter response should be.

"It could have been as bad as Uvalde, based on what Hale had for firepower."

Police release body camera footage

Police released a six minute compilation video of officers Rex Englebert and Michael Collazo body camera footage.

The video begins when Englebert arrived on scene where a staff member outside the school directed officers to the second floor of the school. Police quickly worked through the first floor clearing classrooms and encouraging each other to move faster.

As Englebert moved to the second floor, eight gunshots can be heard down the hallway. The officer rounded the corner and fired four shots. Officers approached Hale, who was laying on the ground next to a wide window overlooking the parking lot. Hale is visible in the video but is partially obscured by a blurred box.

About the four-minute mark, the video cuts to Collazo's body camera. As he ascends the stairs to the second floor, an officer ahead of him looks left out.

"We've got one down," he says before turning right down the hallway.

Collazo follows closely behind Englebert, then moves to the right of him firing four shots at Hale.

"Suspect down, suspect down," Collazo calls over the radio.

Daughter of Covenant Presbyterian Church's lead pastor among victims

Hallie Scruggs was a student at the Covenant School. 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.”

Pediatric surgeon recalls leaving school moments before shooting

Britney Grayson was moments away from the shooting Monday.

She and her husband Micah Wilfong were speaking to students Monday morning about their mission trip to Kenya. After the talk, they left the school. Britney, a pediatric surgeon, pulled out her phone and answered a few text messages sitting in her car.

Audrey Hale was already in the parking lot.

Grayson pulled out of the parking lot about 10:12 a.m., she said.

At 10:13 a.m., Hale fired the first shot inside the school.

“As a pediatric surgeon, my first thought was, if I had still been there, could I have rendered immediate aid to these victims,” Grayson said. “It’s hard, because if I had been there, maybe I could have been shot.”

'Evil is very real'

Zion Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Paul Joiner, who spoke slowly, deliberately and somberly, said many of church members were close to fellow congregants at Covenant Presbyterian Church "up the road." The Zion community, mirroring the Covenant community, also houses a school, Zion Christian Academy, serving over 520 students in grades Pre-K-12.

“This one hits close to home,” Joiner said. “We have become aware of the reality that we spend most of our lives wanting to deny, that this world is not safe. Evil is very real. Evil people do evil things. For some of us, these are our friends.”

“The senior pastor lost a daughter today,” he said. “This is another PCA church school just up the road. This is a deep rupture in our lives.”

Police: Covenant school shooting was 'calculated and planned'

Metro Nashville police published a news release late Monday that said investigators found writings that revealed the attack was " calculated and planned."

Chief John Drake previously said during a news conference that during a search of the home she shared with her father on Brightwood Avenue, officers found a "manifesto" and drawn maps of the school with entrances and security cameras noted.

Officers also found a sawed-off shotgun and a second shotgun at the home.

Officers named

MNPD said Audrey Hale shot at officers from a second-story window when they arrived at the school Monday morning.

Those officers made entry into the school and ultimately shot and killed Hale.

A news release identified the officers who made the fatal shots as Rex Englebert, a four-year MNPD veteran, and nine-year veteran Michael Collazo.

Who were the victims of The Covenant School shooting?

Police identified the victims of the shooting on Monday afternoon as:

  • Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, a student

  • Hallie Scruggs, 9, a student

  • William Kinney, 9, a student

  • Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of school

  • Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher

  • Mike Hill, 61, the school's custodian

The Covenant School shooting:Who are the victims?

Who was the shooter?

Hale was a former student at The Covenant School, according to police. Hale was an illustrator and graphic designer who used he and him pronouns, according to a police spokesperson. Police initially identified Hale by his birth name and gender.

How did the shooter get into the school?

Don Aaron, a spokesperson for MNPD, said Hale was believed to have entered a side entrance around 10:13 a.m. Monday with two assault rifles and a handgun. Police said Hale drove to the campus, parked and entered after shooting out the glass in a set of double doors.

"The police department response was swift," 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."

As officers approached, Hale fired upon them from a second story window, MNPD said. Police said Hale was armed with "significant ammunition."

Hale was fatally shot by a five-member police team around 10:27 a.m. in a second floor lobby.

Watch: Nashville police release footage from school shooting

Hale shot multiple rounds into glass doors to make entry into the school. Surveillance video shows him carrying and aiming an assault rifle as he walks hallways. Minutes later, the video cuts off.

Nashville and Tennessee leaders respond to school shooting

Nashville Police Chief John Drake said he grew emotional as he witnessed the aftermath of the shooting.

"I was literally moved to tears to see this as the kids were being ushered out of the building," Drake said during a news briefing. He praised the quickness of the police response. "It could have been far worse."

Nashville Mayor John Cooper thanked first responders and medical professionals in a statement addressing the "tragic morning" that Nashville "joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting."

"My heart goes out to the families of the victims," Cooper said. "Our entire city stands with you."

In a Twitter statement, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he is monitoring the situation closely and asked for the public to "join us in praying for the school, congregation and Nashville community."

'This is shattering'Nashville officials respond to The Covenant School shooting

President Joe Biden wants Congress to act on gun control

President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. Biden believes recent legislative actions have not been enough.

"It's heartbreaking, a family's worst nightmare," Biden said Monday afternoon. He commended MNPD's swift response, and called for Congress to take action to pass a ban on assault weapons.

"We have to do more to stop gun violence," Biden said. "It's ripping our communities apart … ripping at the very soul of our nation. We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren't turned into prisons."

Shooting renews gun control push:'How many more classrooms must become crime scenes?'

First lady Jill Biden also addressed the shooting as she opened the National League of Cities event in Washington.

"I am truly without words and our children deserve better," she said. "We stand, all of us, with Nashville in prayer."

What is The Covenant School?

The Covenant School was founded in 2001 as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church and has students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Enrollment fluctuates between 195 and 210. The school employs about 33 faculty members.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville shooting: Shooter Audrey Hale sent Instagram DMs