Heroic headteacher ended Zoom call and ran towards shooter during Nashville school massacre

Heroic headteacher Katherine Koonce ran towards the shooter during the Nashville school massacre before the killer “assassinated” her in a hallway, it has been revealed.

Nashville City Councilman Russ Pulley told Fox News that Koonce, 60, was on a Zoom call when she learend that there was an active shooting situation inside The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee.

Mr Pulley said that the head of the school “immediately ended” the Zoom meeting and headed in the direction of the shooter.

“It is my understanding from a witness at the school that Katherine Koonce was on a Zoom call when she heard the first shot. She immediately ended the call, got up and headed straight for the shooter,” Mr Pulley said.

Koonce’s body was found in a hallway of the school, according to Nashville Police Chief John Drake.

He, however, could not confirm the exact instances leading up to her death.

“There was a confrontation, I’m sure – you can tell the way she was lying in the hallway,” Chief Drake said, adding that she had been “assassinated”.

Prior to Monday’s shooting, Koonce had already taken many efforts in her school to better protect students from gun violence, including seeking advanced-level active-shooter training.

Mr Pulley said she had “protected her children”: “She did what principals and headmasters do.”

Parents with students at the school also praised Koonce, with one describing her as a “saint”,

“She did so much for those kids,” the mother of two of the school’s children told the BBC.

“She knew every single student by name,” she said. “She did everything to help them when families couldn’t afford things, it didn’t matter. She found ways for them to stay.”

Covenant School Headteacher Katherine Koonce (Covenant School)
Covenant School Headteacher Katherine Koonce (Covenant School)

Two other staff members were also killed in the shooting. They were identified as Cynthia Peak and Mike Hill, both aged 61.

Three students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all aged nine, also died in the attack.

The shooting unfolded just after 10am on Monday morning when accused shooter Audrey Hale allegedly drove to the elementary school heavily armed.

There, Hale – a 28-year-old former student at the christian school – broke into the school building by shooting through the glass side doors and climbing inside.

Once inside, the shooter stalked the corridors, killing the six victims.

Responding officers fatally shot the assailant at 10.27am – 14 minutes after the first 911 call reporting an active shooter came in at 10.13am.

Minutes before the shooting, Hale had sent some chilling final messages to a friend warning that “something bad is about to happen”.

Nashville police revealed on Tuesday that Hale legally purchased seven firearms in the run-up to Monday’s mass shooting – despite receiving mental health treatment at the time.

In a press conference, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said that Hale – a 28-year-old former student at the Christian school – was under care “for an emotional disorder” and that her family “felt that she should not own weapons”.

The police chief said that Hale’s parents were aware the the suspect had purchased one firearm, but believed it had since been sold.

In reality, the 28-year-old had legally purchased seven firearms and hid them in the family home.

Three of those firearms – two assault rifles and a handgun – were used in Monday’s shooting.

Memorial set up for victims of the school shooting (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Memorial set up for victims of the school shooting (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Even if Hale’s parents had been aware of the stash of weapons and contacted law enforcement, there is no red flag law in Tennessee that could have been used to take away the firearms.

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 but on the suspect’s social media accounts they refer to themselves as Aiden.

Investigators are still working to determine the motive for the attack, which was both planned and targeted.

The killer left behind a manifesto and a detailed map of the building, with police also finding evidence suggesting Hale was planning other attacks including on a local mall and targeting family members.

Hale – an illustrator and graphic designer who attended Nossi College of Art – had no criminal record prior to Monday’s massacre.