Nashville school shooter bought seven guns while under doctor’s care for emotional disorder
The mass shooter at a private Christian primary school in Nashville was under a doctor’s care for an “emotional disorder” but managed to legally purchase seven firearms, police said.
Audrey Hale, 28, shot dead three students and three staff at the Covenant School on Monday after storming in armed with two assault-style weapons and a shotgun.
John Drake, Nashville’s police chief, said Hale identified as transgender and was “under a doctor’s care for an emotional disorder”.
Hale had left behind a “manifesto” and other documents indicating the attack had been meticulously planned, though the victims appeared to have been chosen at random.
They were nine-year-old students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney; Katherine Koonce, the school’s head teacher, 60; Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; and Mike Hill, 61, a custodian.
Hale had legally bought seven firearms from five different gun stores in the area and hid the guns from her parents before the attack, police revealed.
Mr Drake said police “knew nothing” about Hale’s medical supervision, but said “her parent’s felt that she should not own weapons.”
Mr Drake said Hale’s parents had told police they were under the impression the shooter did not own any weapons, having previously sold one gun.
“As it turned out she had been hiding several weapons in the house,” he added.
The police chief said detectives were still working to identify a motive for the deadly attack.
Mr Drake said police suspected Hale planned other attacks targeting family members and a local shopping mall.
“We strongly believe there were going to be some other targets, including maybe family members, and one of the malls here in Nashville,” he told CBS. “And that just did not happen.”
He said they were probing whether the shooter’s transgender identity was a factor and said Hale, a former student at the Covenant School, had “some resentment for having to go to that school”.
Mr Drake used female pronouns to refer to the shooter but officials have indicated Hale was identifying as male and went by the name of Aiden.
It was unclear when Hale attended the Presbyterian school, for children aged between four and 12, where fees are as much as $16,500 (£13,370) per year.
The school is affiliated with the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America, which has spoken of the “sinfulness” of transgender and homosexual desire and conduct, according to The New York Times.
‘I did not think she was capable’
Residents in the quiet, leafy neighbourhood in southwest Nashville where Hale grew up said they were still reeling from the tragedy on Tuesday.
One neighbour, who did not want to be named, told The Telegraph that Hale was autistic. “She was very shy and kept to herself,” the neighbour said.
“I did not think she was capable of doing anything like this,” the neighbour said.
The local resident said he was shocked to hear there were guns in the Hale family home.
“From what I understand, the mother would not have let that be,” the resident said, adding that she appeared to keep a sharp eye on Hale.
Residents described the sleepy neighbourhood as close knit, with some families, including the Hales, living on the street for more than 35 years.
Many are members of Covenant church, to which the Presbyterian school is attached. Some residents on Hale’s street had children attending the primary school.
It emerged on Tuesday that Hale had messaged a friend minutes before the massacre saying “one day this will make more sense” because they had “left more than enough evidence behind”.
Police also released footage of the moment they opened fire on Hale as she roamed the church school.
A six-minute clip showed officers arriving on the scene minutes after the shooting began and rushing towards the sound of gunfire.
Minutes later, they find Hale on the second floor armed with assault rifles and a handgun, and open fire.
After several shots Hale is seen lying prone on the ground.
The CCTV and police bodycam footage was released less than 24 hours after the incident amid intense scrutiny of police response times to school shootings.
It follows a succession of police misconduct cases and the huge public backlash over officers’ handling of the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, last May.
In an address on Tuesday, Joe Biden said: “Those children should be with us still. As a nation we owe these families more than prayers ... We need to act.”
The US president said he was “a second amendment guy” but described assault-style weapons as “weapons of war”.
Mr Biden said he had spoken to officials in Nashville as he urged Congress to pass stronger gun safety laws, including a ban on assault weapons.
“The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre, it’s a crazy idea,” he said.
The Covenant School sits behind a brick wall atop a hill in the affluent Green Hills neighbourhood just south of downtown Nashville.
Rows of soft toys, including Easter bunnies and a large blue toy donkey, lined the entrance on Tuesday.
A steady stream of mourners came to pay their respects, some weeping openly and others standing in silent prayer.
Bryce, 29, a waiter, struggled to hold tears back as he described the impact on his community.
“In a lot of ways it feels very safe here, that’s what made me stay and why I fell in love with Nashville,” he said.
He described himself as “a member of the LGBTQ community” and said he feared “the shooter being identified in that way” could further politicise the debate.