Police say no motive in Nashville school shooting but shooter was being treated for ‘emotional disorder’
Police have not yet ascertained any motive behind the mass shooting which took place at a Christian elementary school in Nashville on Monday, but officials said on Tuesday that gunman Audrey Hale had previously been under mental health treatment.
“She was under care, doctor’s care, for an emotional disorder,” Nashville police chief John Drake said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Her parents felt that she should not own weapons,” the chief added.
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.
Officials said on Tuesday they had interviewed the Hale family, who was aware the the suspect had purchased one firearm, but believed Hale had sold it.
In reality, Mr Drake said, the 28-year-old was able to purchase seven guns legally from five different local stores.
Hale carried three guns – two assault weapons and a pistol – during the shooting itself, and police discovered a shotgun and a sawed-off shotgun at his home.
The police chief added on Tuesday that while the state lacked a law that would allow police to formally confiscate weapons from someone deemed to be mentally unstable, officials would’ve sought to prevent any violence from occuring had they been warned.
“If it had been reported, there’s no a law for that,” Mr Drake said. “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.”
Officials said on Tuesday they have no reason to believe any individuals at The Covenant School were targeted in particular, though they have previously said Hale was a former student at the private school.
Those who knew Hale said they were shocked that the shooting occured, describing the 28-year-old 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: “She was very sweet. I don’t know what happened. It’s very scary.”
A former school basketball teammate said Hale sent her messages on the morning of the shooting warning of an attack and describing suicidal thoughts.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, the Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.