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Female shooter kills three kids, three adults in school massacre

Police said they believe the 28-year-old female shooter was a former student.

A female shooter wielding two “assault-style” rifles and a pistol killed three students and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday in the latest in a series of mass shootings across the US.

The 28-year-old shooter has been identified as Audrey Hale, a former student at The Covenant School, a Presbyterian primary school, police said.

Nashville Police identified the victims as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all aged 9. Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61 were also killed. The shooter was shot dead by police shortly after 10:27am local time, bringing the death toll to seven.

Children from The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn., hold hands as they are taken to reunite with their parents after the school shooting.
A woman has killed three children and three adults in a horrific school shooting. Source: AP via AAP

Manifesto and detailed map of school found

Police received the initial call about an active shooter at 10:13am. The tragedy unfolded over roughly 14 minutes, police spokesperson Don Aaron said during a news briefing.

The motive of the shooter — who police said was a transgender woman — was not immediately clear but a manifesto and a detailed map of the school have since been found, according to local reports. The 28-year-old had conducted surveillance of the school and prepared the attack, officials reportedly said. The contents of the manifesto have not been released.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said the woman — armed with two semiautomatic AR-15-style rifles as well as a handgun — shot through a door to gain access to the school, NBC reported. The shooter was “prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement” and “prepared to do more harm," he said.

A child weeps while on the bus leaving The Covenant School following a mass shooting at the school in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, March 27, 2023. (Nicole Hester/The Tennessean via AP)
Children were removed from The Covenant School following a mass shooting at the school in Nashville. Source: AAP

Officers began clearing the first storey of the school when they heard gunshots coming from the second level, police spokesperson Aaron said. Two officers from a five-member team opened fire in response, fatally shooting the suspect.

He also said there were no police officers present or assigned to the school at the time of the shooting because it is a church-run school.

Police 'moved to tears'

The attack at The Covenant School — which has about 200 students from preschool through sixth grade, as well as roughly 50 staff members — comes as communities around the nation are reeling from a spate of school violence, including the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last year; a first grader who shot his teacher in Virginia; and a shooting last week in Denver that wounded two administrators.

“I was literally moved to tears to see this and the kids as they were being ushered out of the building,” Police Chief Drake said at an afternoon news conference on Monday.

Law enforcement officers lead children away from the scene of a shooting at The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday March, 27, 2023. Source: Jozen Reodica via AP
Police received the initial call about an active shooter at 10:13 am on Monday. Source: Jozen Reodica via AP

'Family's worst nightmare'

President Joe Biden, speaking at an unrelated event at the White House on Monday, called the shooting a “family’s worst nightmare” and implored Congress again to pass a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons. “It’s ripping at the soul of this nation, ripping at the very soul of this nation,” he said.

The Covenant School’s victims were pronounced dead at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. One officer had a hand wound from cut glass. Other students walked to safety Monday, holding hands as they left their school surrounded by police cars, to a nearby church to be reunited with their parents.

A woman kisses a child at the reunification center at the Woodmont Baptist church after a school shooting, Monday, March 27, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Source: AP via AAP
Students walked to safety, holding hands as they left their school surrounded by police cars, to a nearby church to be reunited with their parents. Source: AP via AAP

Children's 'whole lives changed today'

Rachel Dibble, who was at the church as families reunited in the nearby church, described the scene as everyone being in “complete shock.” “People were involuntarily trembling,” said Dibble, whose children attend a different private school in Nashville. “The children … started their morning in their cute little uniforms they probably had some Froot Loops and now their whole lives changed today.”

The suspect’s identity as a woman surprised experts on mass shootings. Female shooters make up only about 5-8 per cent of all mass shooters, said Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama who has closely studied the psychology and behaviour of mass shooters.

Researchers believe there are three main explanations for why men commit more shootings than women, according to Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University who has studied mass shootings for more than a decade.

Metzl listed those explanations as: Men have more testosterone, are socialized to be engaged in violence and own more guns than women.

“There is some story we don’t know here,” Metzl said of the suspected female shooter in Nashville. “From school shootings historically, very often we think that people have some historical connection or emotional connection to the school. There’s an untold story here.”

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