Audrey Hale: What we know about the Nashville school shooter
A heavily armed 28-year-old killed six people at a Nashville elementary school in a devastating mass shooting on Monday morning.
Audrey Hale, a transgender man who used he/him pronouns and a former student at the elementary school, allegedly entered The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, just after 10am.
Inside, the shooter opened fire on students and staff, killing six victims.
Students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all aged nine, Head of School Katherine Koonce, 60, Cynthia Peak, 61, and Mike Hill, 61, all died in the attack.
Two responding police officers shot the suspect dead.
Here’s what we know about Hale:
Who was the shooter in the Nashville attack?
Nashville police said on Monday the shooter was 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale.
Police have identified the suspected shooter by their name at birth. Hale reportedly was a transgender man who used he/him pronouns, though law enforcement officials initially described the suspect as a woman in the aftermath of the shooting. Police did not provide another name.
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said in a press conference on Monday that Hale once attended the school.
An illustrator and graphic designer who attended Nossi College of Art, Hale does not appear to have had any criminal record prior to Monday’s massacre.
Neighbours have revealed their shock at Monday’s attack, describing Hale as a normal “quiet” person, from a family without any apparent interest in guns.
“If I had to imagine, Audrey’s parents are probably just as shocked as everybody in the neighborhood is…It just doesn’t seem real,” Sean Brashears told The Daily Beast.
“There’s nothing that would have led me to believe that she was capable of such a thing or that she or anybody in that family would have access to, much less ever used, a gun. They just don’t seem like the family that, like, is around guns. They’re not talking about going to a gun range or they’re not going hunting.”
Another neighbour Sandy Durham said: “I do know Audrey, I’ve known her since she was a baby. I had just gotten out of the shower when all of this started happening. I didn’t really know anything more than that. Something was going on next door. It’s just tragic for everybody. The sweet children that were hurt, killed, the adults. All of it.”
Asked if there were any warning signs, she said: “Never. She was very sweet. I don’t know what happened. It’s very scary.”
Another neighbour described Hale as coming from a “great family.”
“This is a great family and it’s a tragedy,” they told NBC News.
A LinkedIn account suggests Hale was an illustrator and graphic designer based in Nashville. The account says Hale was working for AH Illustrations and had previously been an illustrator at Nossi College of Art. It also mentions jobs with Grocery Shopper and as a cat sitter.
How did the shooting unfold?
Hale arrived on the school campus in her Honda Fit, with security footage capturing the vehicle driving through the parking lot to the building.
Police said Hale was able to then forcibly enter the school door on the first floor of Covenant, where shots were fired, before moving to an upper level.
The first call to 911 about shots being fired came in at 10.13am, police said.
When officers rushed to the campus, the shooter opened fire on arriving police cars from a window on the second floor.
Officers entered the building and began clearing the building, police said.
While clearing the building, officers heard shots fired on the second level and moved to the second floor common area where they encountered Hale, police said.
Two police officers opened fire, fatally shooting Hale.
Monday’s tragedy unfolded over roughly 14 minutes.
Late on Monday night, police released around two minutes of edited surveillance video showing the killer’s car driving up to the school from multiple angles, including one in which children can be seen playing on swings in the background.
Next, an interior view shows the glass doors to the school being shot out and the shooter ducking through one of the shattered doors.
More footage from inside shows the shooter walking through a school corridor holding a gun with a long barrel and walking into a room labelled “church office”, then coming back out.
In the final part of the footage, the shooter can be seen walking down another long corridor with the gun drawn.
What was the motive in the Nashville shooting?
Nashville Police Chief John Drake did not say what drove the killer to open fire, but he provided chilling examples of the killer's elaborate planning for the attack.
In the course of their investigation, officers discovered manifesto-like writings and apparent research into the facilities and entry points at Covenant.
The shooter had drawn a detailed map of the building and conducted surveillance before carrying out the massacre, police said.
"We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we're going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident," he told reporters. "We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place."
He said in an interview with NBC News that investigators believe the killer had "some resentment for having to go to that school".
Writings recovered from Hale also revealed that the attack was calculated and planned.
The chief told NBC the manifesto "indicates there was going to be shootings at multiple locations and that the school was one of them." He said the Covenant School was singled out for attack but that the individual victims were targeted at random.
The police chief said on Monday that officers have looked into a vehicle and an address linked to the 28-year-old.
At Hale’s home, authorities seized a sawed-off shotgun, a second shotgun, and other evidence, police said.
Investigators have also spoken with Hale’s father.
Police said the Covenant School – a private Christian elementary – was the only school targeted but the suspect had been considering targeting another location – which was not identified.
Hale apparently decided not to because of the level of security around that location.
“Right now we believe it was a lone assailant, and we don’t anticipate any further damage at this time,” the police chief said.
Chief Drake said Hale was not believed to have any previous criminal record.
The police chief added that while there was no known history of mental illness, it was a lead that was being investigated.
However, a friend said that Hale had spoken about feel suicidal in the past.
What kind of weapons were used?
Hale was armed with three guns including two assault-type weapons and one handgun.
“We know that she was armed with at least two assault-type rifles and a handgun,” a police spokesperson said during a press briefing on Monday.
Officials said that at least two of the three weapons used in the shooting were believed to have been bought legally in Nashville.
Nashville Police released images of the weapons used in the attack.
The guns were decorated with stickers, while one of the rifles had the word “hell” written on it.
Images of Hale’s abandoned car and the school’s smashed glass door which they believe the suspect fired through to make entry were also released on Monday night.
What has Hale’s family said about the shooting?
Norma Fort Hale, Audrey’s mother, had previously posted on social media after school shootings and called for more gun control.
Ms Hale, whose social media profile lists her as an employee of a Nashville-based chapel, shared links on Facebook to a Sandy Hook Promise petition to “keep guns out of schools” back in 2018, calling the pledge “so important”.
The posts, seen by The Independent, appear to have since been taken down.
The Independent was not able to reach Ms Hale for comment. A number linked to her name via public records appears to have been disconnected.
Ms Hale appears to have confirmed that Audrey was involved in the shooting.
“It’s very difficult now, we ask for privacy,” she told ABC News. “I really can’t talk right now, I think I lost my daughter today.”
Were there any warning signs?
Hale’s chilling final messages have now come to light, issuing a dark warning to a friend that “something bad is about to happen” just minutes before the shooting unfolded.
Hale sent a series of direct messages to friend Averianna Patton via Instagram on Monday morning.
In the harrowing messages sent at 9.57am, Hale revealed plans to die by suicide telling Ms Patton “this is my last goodbye” and that she would soon be reading about it “on the news after I die”.
“One day this will make more sense,” Hale wrote.
“I’ve left behind more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen.”
Just 16 minutes later – at 10.13am – law enforcement received the first 911 call reporting shots fired inside The Covenant School.
In the messages, shared with NewsChannel 5, Hale wrote: “So basically that post I made on here about you, that was basically a suicide note.
“I’m planning to die today. THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!!
“You’ll probably hear about me on the news after I die.”
She continued: “This is my last goodbye. I love you [heart emoji] See you again in another life. Audrey (Aiden).”
Ms Patton, a former middle school basketball teammate of Hale who shared the messages with NewsChannel5, responded telling her friend “you have so much more life to live”.
Hale wrote back saying that “I just need to die” and that “my family doesn’t know what I’m about to do”.
Ms Patten told NewsChannel 5 that she contacted the Suicide Prevention Help Line at 10.08am to try to get her friend help.
“Audrey has shared with others that she had been suicidal in the past and I knew to take this serious,” Ms Patton said.
Then, at 10.13am, Ms Patton said she called the Nashville Davidson County Sheriff’s Office to tell them about the situation.
She said she was told to contact Nashville’s non-emergency number.
That very same minute, her former teammate was allegedly carrying out a mass shooting at the elementary school.
“I called Nashville’s non-emergency line at 10.14am and was on hold for nearly seven minutes before speaking with someone who said that they would send an officer to my home,” she said.
At 3.29pm, an officer finally came to her home to speak to her, she said.
By that point, she had learned from the news and from friends what Hale had done.
“After phone calls from friends and Audrey’s name was released as the shooter at Covenant Nashville school, I learned that Audrey was the shooter and that she had reached out to me prior to the shooting,” Ms Patton said.
“My heart is with all of the families affected and I’m devastated by what has happened.”
Ms Patton said that she believes there could have been more urgency from authorities when she contacted them about the chilling messages from Hale.
What happens next?
The Metro Nashville Police Department is leading the investigation into the shooting, with assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Reacting to the latest bloodshed in an epidemic of gun violence turning U.S. schools into killing zones, U.S. President Joe Biden urged the U.S. Congress again to pass tougher gun reform legislation, including an assault weapons ban.
"We have to do more to stop gun violence," Biden said at the White House. "It's ripping our communities apart, ripping the soul of this nation."
Speaking at the White House on Monday, he called the shooting a "family's worst nightmare".
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