Personal connections and new evidence shed light on Nashville shooting as motive remains illusive

Nashville police say they still haven’t been able to pin down a motive behind a shooting that took place in the city on 27 March at a private Christian school, which claimed the lives of six victims as well as the gunman.

However, a day after the killing, one of the worst shootings in Tennessee history, new details have come to light about gunman Audrey Hale, how the shooting unfolded and the impact the violence has had on families across Nashville.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Nashville police chief John Drake said investigators discovered Hale, 28, had been treated for mental health challenges prior to the shooting.

“She was under care, doctor’s care, for an emotional disorder,” Nashville police chief John Drake said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Hale was reportedly a transgender man who had recently begun using he/him pronouns, according to a family member and some of Hale’s social media profiles. Law enforcement continue to use Hale’s birth name and describe Hale as a woman.

The Hale family said the 28-year-old owned a weapon, but felt he should “not own weapons” and believed Hale had sold it.

Hale had, however, secretly obtained seven guns legally from five stores in the Nashville area, according to police.

The 28-year-old appears to have meticulously planned the shooting, drawing diagrams of The Covnenant School.

Police said on Tuesday they have reason to believe Hale had plans to attack family members and a mall.

Officials believe Hale did not target any of those at The Covenant School on Tuesday specifically, but selected the private school on purpose. Hale was a former student of the school.

Police have also released surveillance camera and police body camera footage of the Monday shooting that captured Hale shoot his way through a school door, then get shot by a team of officers who later arrived on the scene.

At the same time Hale was inside the school, Averianna Patton, an old friend of Hale’s, was on hold trying to warn city officials something bad might happen.

The 28-year-old had sent Ms Patton a series of worrying messages from the school parking lot, describing suicidal thoughts and some bad event that was about to happen, The Tennessean reports.

After spending about seven minutes on hold, Ms Patton was connected to a non-emergency dispatcher who took her information and said they would send someone to follow up on her report.

That staff member didn’t arrive to see Ms Patton until around 3.29pm that afternoon, according to the Tennessean, hours after the shooting was over.

“Something in me was like, ‘No, you need to help. Do something,’” Ms Patton told the paper.

Nashville police said they didn’t have any prior warning signs that Hale was dangerous.

On Tuesday, chief Drake said while there isn’t a Tennessee law that would allow them to have seized Hale’s guns, police would have tried to prevent the shooting had they been given warning.

“If it had been reported she was suicidal or was going to kill someone and had been reported to us, we would’ve tried to get those weapons,” he said, adding, “As it stands, we had absolutely no idea who this person was.”

The impact of the shooting is being felt across Nashville.

On Monday, a vigil for the victims of the shooting was held at a Nashville church.

“I don’t want to be an only child,” the older sister of the deceased Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9 said during the service, per The Tennessean.

In a video address on Tuesday night, Tennessee governor Bill Lee revealed that Tennessee first lady Maria Lee was close friends with one of the victims, substitute teacher Cindy Peak, and had plans to meet with her for dinner on Monday evening.

“What happened at Covenant School was a tragedy beyond comprehension,” he said.

“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.”

Joe Biden said the Nashville tragedy should be a call to action to pass further gun reforms.

So far, Congress has ignored roughly 70 pleas from the president to ban assault weapons, per an analysis by The Independent.

“I have gone the full extent of my executive authority to do, on my own, anything about guns,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday and added that the legislative branch “needs to act” if the US is to have any new laws governing the availability of firearms, particularly the military-style rifles that have become the weapon of choice for mass shooters in recent years.

On the other side of the aisle, GOP lawmakers and far-right figures seized on the Nashville shooting to continue pushing hateful rhetoric and bills targeting trans people.

LGBT+ advocates have argued that media personalities and elected officials have exploited the aftermath of the shooting to shift blame towards trans people and depict them as mentally ill, echoing falsehoods and rhetoric that has surrounded a wave of legislation targeting gender-affirming care in recent years.

Far-right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has proposed federal legislation to outlaw gender-affirming care for trans youth, said “everyone can stop blaming guns now”. There have been at least 129 other mass killings so far this year.

Ms Greene’s Twitter account was temporarily limited for her comments about the shooting.

Police have described no link between Hale’s reported identity as a transgender man and the shooting in Nashville.

New York Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticised Ms Greene’s “absolutely disgusting” remarks, telling The Independent that the Georgia Republican “should be looking into a mirror as to why she’s defending and posing with the same weapons that are being used to kill children, teachers and educators.”